Ten best managers who never played professional football ranked

Ten best managers who never played professional football ranked

Kevin Omuya
updated at April 12, 2023 at 7:57 PM

As fans, we always have more significant expectations of the teams we support, depending on how we perceive the group and its management. Football is a game of insight and vision; thus, having a coach who was once a professional footballer seems ideal. Surprisingly, some managers who never played football in their careers but have achieved much while in the dugout are listed in this article.

Best managers who never played professional football
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

We have the most famous and successful coaches in the world of football, among which are some of the best coaches who never played the sport. This article provides the top-level managers who have never played football professionally.

Ten best managers who never played football ranked

According to the most recent publications, this list contains top-ranked football managers who never played football just like in other games, coaches who never played their sport.

10. Paul Clement

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Paul Clement, reading manager, looks on before the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Stoke City at Madejski Stadium on December 01, 2018, in Reading, England. Photo: Alex Burstow
Source: Getty Images

Clement has previously managed Derby County, Swansea City, and Reading and coaching positions at Fulham, Blackburn Rovers, and the England and Republic of Ireland under-21 teams. From the age of 23, he focused on coaching while also working as a Physical Education teacher at the Chelsea Centre of Excellence.

Clement, as one of the managers who weren't players, earned a UEFA 'A' coaching license in 1999 and began working as a full-time football coach in 2000 when Fulham hired him to work in their academy.

9. Gerard Houllier

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Olympique Lyonnais advisor Gerard Houllier arrives to attend the draw for the UEFA Champions League football tournament at The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on August 30, 2018. Photo: VALERY HACHE
Source: Getty Images

Liverpool fans remember Gerard Houllier fondly for winning the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup in the 2000/01 season. However, few people can boast of winning the Ligue 1 with two clubs.

Gerard Houllier did just that when he won three Ligue 1 titles, the first with PSG in 1985/86 and then with Olympique Lyonnais before resigning on May 25, 2007. Between 1992 and 1993, he coached the French national team, and from 2010 to 2011, he was the head coach of Aston Villa.

8. Roy Hodgson

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Watford Head Coach Roy Hodgson looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on February 26, 2022, in Manchester, United Kingdom. Photo: Ash Donelon
Source: Getty Images

Hodgson was a Crystal Palace youth player who never made it into the first team. So instead, he trained to become a fully qualified manager at 23. He then joined Maidstone United as Bob Houghton's assistant manager.

He has coached at Fulham, Liverpool, and West Bromwich Albion and national teams in Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and, most recently, England. His most tremendous success as a Premier League coach came at Fulham, where he miraculously saved the club from relegation in 2008 and led them to the Europa League final in 2010.

7. Avram Grant

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Avram Grant during the training session at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 30, 2020, in London, England. Photo: Sebastian Fre
Source: Getty Images

Grant has spent most of his coaching and management career in Israel, winning several national league and cup titles. Grant began his professional coaching at 18 years old being one of the football managers who never started late. He led Hapoel Petah Tikva to two Toto Cup victories in 1990 and 1991, restoring it to the top of Israeli football for the first time in nearly 25 years.

In 2007, he took over as manager following Mourinho's departure. Despite being an unpopular choice among fans, he led the club to the 2008 Champions League final, which they lost on penalties to Manchester United. He also had brief stints at Portsmouth, leading them to the FA Cup final.

6. Brian Kerr

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Brian Kerr celebrates after the Extra. i.e. FAI Cup Final match between Bohemians and St Patrick's Athletic at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: By Seb Daly
Source: Getty Images

Kerr got his first coaching job at 13 when he was appointed to the Crumlin United under-11 team. At the age of 21, he took over as coach of the Shamrock Rovers B team. He rose through the ranks to become manager of the top-flight League of Ireland club St Patrick's.

He won the title twice before being appointed technical director of the Football Association of Ireland in 1996. Kerr coached the national team's under-20 team to victory. He was appointed manager of the Ireland national team in 2003 and the Faroe Islands between 2009 and 2011.

5. Andre Villas-Boas

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
André Villas-Boas, the Olympique de Marseille manager, during a press conference at Centre Robert-Louis Dreyfus in Marseille, France, on January 22, 2021. Photo: Olympique de Marseille
Source: Getty Images

Andres earned his coaching credentials while working under Robson at Porto as a teenager. He worked as an assistant to Jose Mourinho before taking over as manager of Liga side Academica at 32. Before moving to Chelsea, he won the league and cup double and the Europa League.

He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2012, but on December 16, 2013, the club announced that Villas-Boas had left "by mutual consent." Villas-Boas retired with the highest percentage of league wins of any manager in the club's Premier League history. That makes him the top best among premier league managers who have never played football. He was later the coach of Zenit St Petersburg for two seasons before moving on to the Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.

4. Bill Struth

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Rangers legend Bill Struth's statue is pictured before the UEFA Europa League Group G match between Rangers and Feyenoord at Ibrox Park, on September 18, 2019, in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Alan Harvey
Source: Getty Images

Bill Struth was an outstanding Rangers manager. A middle-distance runner and a stonemason by trade. He eventually took over as manager in 1920. He transformed the club into Scotland's dominant force, winning an incredible 18 League titles, ten Scottish Cups, and two League Cups during his 34-year tenure at Ibrox.

Bill Struth was only the second manager of the Rangers and the first Scottish manager to win the treble. He even managed to win 14 Scottish titles in 19 years, lifting the premier domestic knockout trophy for the first time in Rangers history in 1928. There is a bronze statue of him at Ibrox Stadium to commemorate his achievements.

3. Guy Roux

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
French former head coach Guy Roux poses upon arrival for the 2018 Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. Photo: FRANCK FIFE
Source: Getty Images

Guy Roux, arguably the most excellent manager who never played football, resigned in 2005 after 44 incredible years at Auxerre. Guy Roux, 23, was appointed coach of Auxerre despite having no experience and having only played for the club, which was still an amateur at the time, for nearly a decade.

He inspired legends like Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc, Djibril Cisse, and Philippe Mexes, who all began their careers at this club during his reign. He won the league, the Coupe de France four times, and the Intertoto Cup and reached the UEFA Cup semifinals in 1993.

2. Carlos Alberto Parreira

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Carlos Alberto Parreira, during the Draw for the FIFA Confederations Cup at Anhembi Convention Center on December 01, 2012, in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Helio Suenaga
Source: Getty Images

Brazil's World Cup-winning coach began his career as a trainer rather than a player. "I started as a fitness coach," Parreira explains. "However, there came the point in my life when I was so well qualified that I was almost pushed into taking on the role of head coach." They asked me to take charge of their youth sides in Kuwait, and that was the start of a long career." It's a career that has included six World Cups, including Brazil's triumph in 1994.

Parreira led Brazil to victories in the 1994 World Cup, the Copa América in 2004, and the Confederations Cup in 2005. In 2005, he was named the IFFHS World's Best National Coach.

1. Arrigo Sacchi

Top managers who never played professional football ranked
Arrigo Sacchi attends at Festival dello Sport at Teatro Strehler in Milan, Italy, on October 09 2020. Photo: Mairo Cinquetti
Source: Getty Images

Who is the greatest manager in football history? Arrigo Sacchi is unquestionably one of the greatest managers who never played football. Sacchi took over as coach of the same Baracca Lugo team he couldn't play for as a teenager, juggling a promising coaching career with a job as a shoe salesman.

Parma was promoted in his first season, and he led them to a promotion to Serie A. He knocked out A.C. Milan in the first round of Coppa Italia, which was more significant to his time at Parma as one of the managers who never played football. Sacchi eventually returned two European Cups to the San Siro after building one of the greatest club teams at AC Milan. Sacchi tops the list of successful managers who never played football.

NFL coaches who never played football

It was not entirely Todd Haley's fault that he never played the sport for which he was hired as the head coach of the National Football League. Haley is the only NFL coach to have never played in the sport.

Did Jose Mourinho play football?

When Mourinho enrolled in the Belenenses youth program and played for Rio AVE and Belenenses and Sesimbra he reached the senior level. Given his lack of athletic prowess, he chose a career in coaching instead of playing professionally.

Football Punditry

With the help of former footballers, many TV channels and websites are able to attract more viewers by using their names as pundits to analyze the game. Pundits get to entertain and inform their viewers, but only a few pundits are well-known in the world of football, so their shows are seen by everyone who is interested in both the pundits and the games they analyze. Unfortunately, there are a good number of managers who never played football and unknown football pundits who never played football.

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Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.