Eight managers you didn’t realise were great players: Heynckes, Del Bosque…

Quick Reads

Successful managers often have their playing careers overshadowed by their achievements as a boss – as former Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City men have proved.

Initially, when a recently-retired player takes his first job as a manager, it seems really strange. And sometimes it’s a feeling that can last for years – Clarence Seedorf, for example, retired in January 2014 yet we still can’t quite believe he’s Cameroon manager.

But there comes a point when a player’s achievements as a manager take precedent in our minds. Just look at Pep Guardiola, who we all now immediately think of as a world-class boss rather than a wonderful player.

Eventually, managers’ playing careers get forgotten about completely. And for younger fans of the game, there are dozens of successful managers on the circuit who they might not even have ever stopped to wonder what they were like as players.

Well, in the case of this lot, the answer is very, very good.

Jupp Heynckes

Bayern Munich have made a habit of firing up a Bat Signal to summon Heynckes to save the day as manager in recent years, meaning his status as one of Germany’s greatest ever goalscorers often goes overlooked.

Perhaps that is due to playing at the same time as Gerd Muller, who is one of only two players to have scored more than Heynckes’ 220 Bundesliga goals, the vast majority of which were scored for Borussia Monchengladbach.

With Heynckes leading the line, Gladbach claimed four titles, one UEFA Cup and one German Cup, while he was also part of Germany’s Euro 1972 and 1974 World Cup-winning squads.

Felix Magath

Best known in England for telling Brede Hangeland to rub himself with cheese to cure an injury, Magath guided Bayern Munich to consecutive doubles and also led Wolfsburg to a Bundesliga title.

He was even more successful as a player, however, winning three league titles, a European Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup as a playmaker for Hamburg, while he also claimed the European Championships with West Germany and was a World Cup runner-up twice.

His finest moment undoubtedly came in 1983, as his stunning goal saw Hamburg beat Juventus 1-0 in the European Cup final.

Vicente Del Bosque

A Real Madrid legend as both a player and a manager, Del Bosque even sported that wonderful slug of a moustache as a defensive midfielder who made over 400 appearances for Los Blancos, winning five league titles and four Copas del Rey.

However, the European Cup eluded him, as he was part of the side which lost to Liverpool in the 1981 final.

His international career was somewhat disappointing, as he won only 18 caps and was part of the Spain side which was eliminated at the group stage from the 1980 European Championships.

Still, he more than made up for that as manager of La Roja.

Manuel Pellegrini

While he has managed some of Europe’s biggest teams, Pellegrini’s playing career is not too well known outside of South America, as the former defender spent his whole career at Universidad de Chile.

Pellegrini made over 450 appearances in the Chilean division, helping the side end a decade-long wait for the title.

He decided to call time on his 15-year playing career, however, after coming up against Ivan ‘Bam Bam’ Zamorano.

“We were playing in the Copa Chile against Cobreandino. Our goalkeeper parried the shot of a rival player, I jumped to clear the ball, and from behind me came a 17-year-old boy who jumped half a metre above me, and scored. That day I decided I couldn’t keep going.

“If I had known where that boy would get, I would not have retired. I would have kept playing two more years.”

Illustration by Ashley Lightfoot

READ: Iván ‘Bam Bam’ Zamorano: A man so committed to No.9 he wore 1+8

Sir Alex Ferguson

Long before he was terrifying his own players with the hairdryer treatment, Fergie was terrifying defenders in Scotland by banging them in for Queen’s Park, St Johnstone, Dunfermline, Rangers, Falkirk and Ayr.

Rangers paid £65,000 to sign the striker from Dunfermline, which was then a record fee between two Scottish clubs.

While his playing honours feature just two Division Two titles and a season as leading goalscorer in the top flight, his physical style of play inspired his naming of the ground floor lounge of a pub he ran in the late 1970s ‘the Elbow Room’.

READ: Football Manager sims how Man Utd would fare with Fergie back in charge

Claude Puel

Puel spent his entire senior playing career with Monaco, making 601 appearances over 17 years.

A defensive midfielder, he won two tiles and three French Cups with the side, and left a lasting impression on his former manager Arsene Wenger.

“Puel was well known in training to be a good tackler,” Wenger said prior to Arsenal’s meeting with Puel’s Southampton in 2016. “Even on the morning of a cup final he could tackle and even if it was the manager then no problem!”

The Leicester boss himself explained: “As a player, I was aggressive on the ball. It was unlucky because he was just behind the ball. I took the ball and Arsene was just there and it was difficult for him.”

And for that reason, he seems like quite a good bloke to go for a pint with.

READ: Ranking every Prem manager by how much you’d fancy a pint with them

Carlo Ancelotti

Perhaps an obvious one, but without Ancelotti we may never have seen one of the greatest club sides of all time.

Arrigo Sacchi made Ancelotti his number one transfer target when he became AC Milan manager, but Silvio Berlusconi was reluctant to sanction a deal due to worries about the player’s knee problems.

“He had more plastic than cartilage,” Sacchi told La Gazzetta Dello Sport in January 2018. “When it was cold, Carlo was warming his knee with the hair dryer so the hardened plastic melted.”

However, the manager continued to insist that Ancelotti was the perfect midfielder for his plans. And eventually, Berlusconi relented after being guaranteed by Sacchi that the purchase of Ancelotti from Roma would ensure Milan won the Scudetto.

With Ancelotti acting as the midfield pivot and Sacchi in the dugout, Milan won not only the Scudetto but back-to-back European Cups, a European Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Supercoppa Italiana.

Roberto Mancini

Two Serie A titles, two European Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, six Coppas Italia, two Supercoppas Italiana, Italian Footballer of the Year.

But never let it be forgotten that the highlight of Mancini’s playing career was getting incredibly wound up by David Batty in a pre-season friendly.

READ: A forensic analysis of David Batty bullying Sampdoria just for fun


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