Some of the most well-known managers in football weren’t renowned superstars on the pitch. Jose Mourinho, Erik ten Hag and many others carved out careers as players, but will now be remembered for their achievements as a coach.
Being a great player doesn’t guarantee that someone will make a great manager. It’s the players you’d perhaps least expect that are the ones who take an unusual route into management, probably because their name isn’t sexy enough immediately land them the big jobs.
That makes for some seriously Football Manager-esque simulation scenarios around the world of football, which we’re going to run through today.
Here are 11 ex-players you would’ve had absolutely no idea were now in football management.
Ninth-tier Skelmersdale United broke the internet in October 2023 by naming Chimbonda as their new manager.
The former Wigan, Tottenham, Sunderland and Blackburn defender, who was also named in France’s 2006 World Cup squad, takes over a side that’s won just one of their 16 North West Counties Premier Division matches in 2023-24.
“This is a very proud day for me,” said Chimbonda. “It is a great honour to become manager of a club with a history as rich as that of Skelmersdale United Football Club.
“I’ve been inspired by Guardiola, Mourinho, Simeone and Zidane, and as such just like those great managers, my philosophy will be to play attractive football.”
His first game in charge is set to be against Kendal Town in the Macron Cup. It’s a far cry from the Olympiastadion and the World Cup final, but we’re totally here for it.
The Argentine made a career out of scoring fabulous goals and managing to become public enemy at just about every club he played for during his time on the pitch. That’s left him with a… polarising reputation to say the least.
Known by many as an extraordinary player but one who lived by his own rulebook, Tevez now suddenly has to flip everything he knew on his head after entering the world of football management.
Taking over at Rosario Central in 2022, Tevez is set to be named the new Independiente boss and is tasked with steering the club away from relegation. We’ll be keeping an extremely close eye on what has the potential to become one of football’s great character arcs.
A blast from the past, most British football fans stopped thinking about Jones when his Barclays highlight reel with Sunderland and Stoke came to an end in 2014.
In the time since, though, the throwback forward played until his 2017 retirement, and surprisingly returned to the game in 2021 as manager of the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national team. They’re currently 75th in the FIFA world rankings.
Bowyer, who played Premier League football for Leeds, West Ham, Newcastle and Birmingham, and won one cap for England, was named Montserrat boss last month.
That came after spells in charge of Charlton and Birmingham. Something of a left-field turn then from the former midfielder.
Montserrat, who are ranked 179th in the world, beat Barbados 3-2 in his opening game but then lost 3-0 to the Dominican Republic.
The first man to win the Premier League with two different clubs, Berg is your dad’s favourite pub quiz answer, but also a football manager these days.
It took him just a year before he headed into management after his 2004 retirement, taking his first job in his native Norway with Lyn and eventually returning to Blackburn as manager in 2012. He lasted only 10 games, though, winning once.
These days, Berg is much more experienced and took up the post at Swedish giants AIK this summer, after spending the last three years in Cyprus.
#OnThisDay 11th of August 1997:
The hero of the San Siro Henning Berg signed for Manchester United in a £5m transfer from Blackburn. pic.twitter.com/kgIAaD7k9J
— 𝘾𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙖 𝘾𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙨 – aka Larry 🇾🇪 (@Cantona_Collars) August 11, 2023
Popovic is best known for his five-year stay in London with Crystal Palace from 2001 to 2006, becoming a bit of an Eagles legend for his exploits.
His playing career around that was rather modest – excluding an impressive 58 caps for Australia – but he’s since put together a quietly impressive managerial CV which has seen him sweep up awards in the A-League.
He’s a three-time A-League Mens Coach of the Year award winner and has won the Australian top-flight twice, consistently managing sides around the top of the division.
Given the success of Ange Postecoglu since heading into Europe, don’t be surprised if Popovic follows suit soon enough.
Not to sound too Peter Kay, but who remembers Arda Turan? Bet you were convinced he’d disappeared and slipped into the void that exists between human life form and the extraterrestrial, weren’t you?
Not quite. Instead, following his transfer to 2015 Barcelona that couldn’t have proved more disastrous if it tried, he quietly slipped into the background, blending in in his native Turkey among all the forgotten Premier League has-beens in the Super Lig, firstly with Istanbul Basaksehir and later with Galatasaray.
Since retiring in 2022 and being completely forgotten about in the footballing world, Turan has quietly stepped into management and can now be found on the touchline for second-division outfit Eyupspor.
And no, that name isn’t a joke – that’s a real club. Plenty of terrible puns to be made in there. Do your worst.
Kuyt possesses one of the most satisfying CVs a footballer could ever have, from humble beginnings in his native Holland, before a big move to Liverpool where he became a hero, followed by the inevitable stint in the Turkish Super Lig and heroes return home to Feyenoord, where he fired them to the Eredivisie in his final ever season.
Since then, he’s quietly been plugging away at his career in management. After serving as the assistant at Quick Boys and then taking a job as under-18 coach at Feyenoord, Kuyt landed his first senior management role in 2022, taking charge of ADO Den Haag.
He was unfortunately sacked that November with them down in 17th.
Former Arsenal and Manchester City left-back Sylvinho has been in charge of Albania since January, with ex-City right-back Pablo Zabaleta as one of his assistants.
Sylvinho, who previously managed Lyon and Corinthians, has taken Albania to the verge of Euro 2024 as they top their qualifying group ahead of the Czech Republic and Poland. Not bad.
Another throwback Barclays star, Duff is also Ireland’s sixth-most capped player of all time and enjoyed a largely successful career in the top-flight of English football.
Heading back to Ireland with Shamrock Rovers in his final season, Duff retired in 2015 and virtually everyone forgot about him. But in the time since, he’s quietly been amassing experience in both Irish and Scottish football, enjoying stints on the coaching staff at both Celtic and the Irish national team.
He’s been in charge of League of Ireland side Shelbourne since 2021. A different approach.
Once tipped for greatness by many, Sahin just couldn’t make it happen at Real Madrid or Liverpool after bursting to prominence with Borussia Dortmund.
He signed for Antalyaspor in the summer of 2021, but retired from playing in October when the club sacked Ersun Yanal and offered him the chance to take the job.
Instead of being a player-coach, Sahin went all in and – now aged just 34 – remains in charge to this day. One to watch.