Back in My Day: 6 Managers Who Were World Class Players in Their Prime

It is a little odd to see a slightly overweight, grey-haired man roaming the touchline every weekend and think back to a time when he was skinning defences, flying down the wing and wreaking havoc in general on the pitch. 

Some modern day gaffers were equally as good of a player as they are a manager, transmitting their successes as a player into the managerial world. 

Here are some managers who were excellent players back in their day…

6. Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti was widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, spending time at Parma, Roma and AC Milan as well as the Italian national team during an illustrious career. 

Ancelotti made 338 appearances and scored 35 goals during his time at all the aforementioned clubs, winning the Serie A title and the Coppa Italia at Roma before winning numerous European titles at Milan. 

‘Carletto’ has since continued his successes into the management scene, winning the league title in England, Germany, Italy and France in addition to his countless European glories.  

5. Mark Hughes

‘Sparky’ as he was so commonly called back in his heyday, was one of the most prolific strikers of his time, plying his trade for prestigious clubs such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea and scoring goals wherever he went. 

Hughes retired with his reputation as a top goalscorer ingrained in history, and his managerial career has also been fairly steady and respectable. 

His most notable job has been at Manchester City, where he found himself amidst the glitz and glamour of the club’s infamous takeover, perhaps clouding his credentials with the club at the time, although he has since overseen solid jobs at both Fulham and his current side Stoke. 

4. Frank de Boer

The legendary Dutch centre back was one of the greatest defenders of his generation, winning five Eredivisie titles and a Champions League whilst at Ajax, where he made 328 appearances and scored 30 goals. 

de Boer also won the title with Barcelona in Spain, although his managerial career has been vastly inconsistent. His first role in management with Ajax saw him win the Eredivisie a further four times, but short stints at Inter and Crystal Palace have seriously damaged his stock as a coach.  

3. Ronald Koeman

Ronald Koeman, believe it or not, remains the highest scoring defender in footballing history with a staggering 239 goals in 685 games, an absolutely astounding record, let alone for a defender. 

The Dutchman has had a fairly successful career in management following his astonishing career, guiding both Ajax and PSV to the Eredivisie title whilst also helping Valencia to a Copa del Rey success.

He also managed to earn a Europa League spot with Everton after his first season on Merseyside, although he has recently been sacked after a dismal start to the campaign.

2. Pep Guardiola

The current Manchester City boss has arguably had a better managerial career than a playing career, which is a big statement seeing as his playing days were pretty impressive. 

Guardiola starred for Barcelona, winning almost everything there was for him to win at the Nou Camp, whilst he also won an Olympic Gold Medal with Spain and earned a place in the UEFA Euro 2002 Team of the Tournament. 

His managerial career needs no explanation, having won almost everything there was for him to win at both Bayern and Barcelona, whilst his City project is just taking off. 

1. Zinedine Zidane

A Ballon d’Or winner in his prime, Zidane is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all time, and such is the number of his individual awards that we would literally be here all day if I were to list them. 

Furthermore, his managerial career has had an unprecedented start. Zizou is the quickest manager in history to win seven titles with a single club, with the feat taking him all of 19 months, whilst he is also the fastest boss to win the ‘FIFA Football Coach of the Year’ award, taking just 653 days to win the coveted award. 

Zidane’s Madrid side have had a faltering start to the current campaign, and with Real officials being notoriously impatient the Frenchman may be worried, but they should certainly give the club legend time to turn the situation around given his start to management.