5 Managers Who Won Major Trophies With 'Small' Clubs: From Ranieri and Mourinho to Alonso

5 Managers Who Won Major Trophies With 'Small' Clubs: From Ranieri and Mourinho to Alonso

Joel Reyes
updated at April 17, 2024 at 6:13 AM
In this article:
FC Porto logo
FC Porto
UEFA Champions League logo
UEFA Champions League logo
UEFA Champions League
Bayer Leverkusen logo
Bayer Leverkusen
Xabi Alonso logo
X. Alonso
-MSpain logo
Leicester City logo
Leicester City
Athletic Bilbao logo
Athletic Bilbao
Copa del Rey logo
Copa del Rey
English Premier League logo
ENG Premier League
  • Xabi Alonso helped Bayer Leverkusen win their first-ever Bundesliga title on Sunday
  • Jose Mourinho led FC Porto to their first-ever Champions League crown back in 2004
  • Claudio Ranieri helped Leicester City capture their first Premier League title in 2016

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Xabi Alonso cemented his status as one of the best coaches in the world by leading Bayer Leverkusen to the Bundesliga title on Sunday.

Die Werkself did so in style, ending Bayern Munich's 11-year reign with an unbeaten campaign in the German top flight league.

Sports Brief looks at Alonso and the other managers who won major titles against all odds with their 'small' clubs.

Jose Mourinho, Xabi Alonso, Claudio Ranieri, Champions League, Premier League, Bundesliga, Leicester City, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto
Jose Mourinho holds the Champions League trophy; Xabi Alonso celebrates his Bundesliga win; Claudio Ranieri holds the Premier League trophy. Images: Matthew Ashton/ Lars Baron/ Simon Stacpoole.
Source: Getty Images

Xabi Alonso leads Leverkusen to Bundesliga title

Xabi Alonso is a miracle worker. When he took over as Bayer Leverkusen's coach in October 2022, the club was ranked second-bottom after eight matches played last season.

He helped them escape relegation, leading Die Werkself to a sixth-place showing in the 2022-23 season. That recovery pales in comparison, though, to the accomplishments the Spaniard achieved in the 2023-24 campaign.

He has fans dreaming of a historic treble after going unbeaten to start the season. The Bundesliga title is already in the bag, clinching the club's first league championship with five matches left to play, per USA Today.

Such has been their dominance that they hold a commanding 16-point lead over 11-time defending champions, Bayern Munich, and Stuttgart following their 5-0 win on Sunday.

Alonso has already committed his future to Leverkusen, meaning the fun times will continue with the German club in the 2024-25 season.

Ranieri leads Leicester to Premier League glory

Football fans will never forget Leicester City's incredible run to the Premier League crown in the 2015-16 season.

The Foxes were given 5000-1 odds to win the championship that year. The English club barely avoided relegation in the 2014-15 season, and the ownership just sacked their manager before the start of the new campaign

Claudio Ranieri took over as coach, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Italian manager worked his magic, becoming the architect of one of the greatest title runs in Premier League history.

Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante, Harry Maguire, and others became household names in England as they led the Foxes to the title.

Leicester finished the season with 81 points, 10 above second-placed Arsenal. The Foxes, buoyed by their manager's personality and charisma, recorded 23 victories, 12 draws, and three defeats in their title-winning campaign.

Mourinho leads Porto to Champions League glory

The legend of Jose Mourinho started in Portugal when he took over as coach of Porto. He helped his side become champions in the Portuguese top flight, leading them to back-to-back titles in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.

The 2003-04 Champions League season was the tournament, though, that put the Portuguese tactician on the map.

He made Porto a team of world-beaters, eliminating Manchester United, Lyon, Deportivo La Coruna, and Monaco in the knockout stage to claim Europe’s biggest prize for the first time in the club's history.

He earned Sir Alex Ferguson's respect when Porto upset United in the Round of 16. Not long after, he anointed himself as 'The Special One' when he took his talents to Chelsea.

He has lived up to that moniker, winning countless trophies with the biggest teams in European football.

Valverde ends Athletic Club's title drought

Athletic Club fans waited 40 years for their team to set sail on the gabarra. That moment finally arrived last Thursday, a reward for their Copa Del Rey win, which ended their decades-long title drought.

Ernesto Valverde has won 11 trophies in his illustrious coaching career, but he confessed that nothing compares to Athletic's latest Copa Del Rey triumph, per ESPN.

They opened the scoring in the final, with Oihan Sancet finding the back of the net in the 66th minute. Fans feared another heart-breaking defeat, though, after they conceded a penalty in second-half stoppage time.

They wouldn't be denied this time around, recording a 4-2 win in the penalty shootout to send their fans in the Basque country into a frenzy.

Bagnoli leads Hellas Verona to Scudetto

Hellas Verona's one and only Serie A title will live long in the memory of their supporters.

Led by coach Osvaldo Bagnoli, the Italian club brought down powerhouse teams from Turin, Milan, and Rome to capture the coveted Scudetto in the 1984-85 season.

They won the title by four points over second-placed Torino.

Mourinho spot on with Alonso prediction

Sports Brief also previously reported on Mourinho correctly predicting Alonso's future.

The ex-Roma boss predicted five years ago that the Spaniard would impress as a coach.

The Special One has been proven right, with Alonso now a Bundesliga-winning manager.

Joel Reyes photo
Joel Reyes
Joel Reyes is a sports editor at Sportsbrief.com with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines. He has eight years of work experience in sports writing.
Jose Mourinho