Sir Alex Ferguson. The name is etched in football history. He’s made Manchester United what it is today: a top club winning trophies on a yearly basis with a worldwide reputation. Twenty five years managing one football club is extraordinary considering that modern day managers are lucky to last one season with their respected teams. Thirty seven trophies is an astonishing amount, not to mention the platform of champion players that have played and been created under Ferguson: Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo, to name a few. Many consider Ferguson to be the greatest manager of all time. With Ferguson looking at another decade at the club, there will not be another one like him. Or could there be?
Names enter your mind. Could there be another manager that could succeed Ferguson in terms of trophies won, longevity at the highest level and the rebuilding of teams?
Listed below are four managers who could be considered the ‘next Alex Ferguson’; it’s a long-shot, one in which we might have to wait another several years to see, but the potential and class is there to be witnessed:
THE SPECIAL ONE
Two Champions League trophies, six league titles, six domestic cups and one UEFA Cup in 10 years of a managerial career is an astonishing record. It’s one of the reasons why Jose Mourinho is called the “Special One”. You could say his record is better than Ferguson when he started his career at Aberdeen and his first years at Manchester United and he has the potential to exceed Sir Alex’s trophy haul.
His tactical nous; his man-management skills and team building is what makes Mourinho one of the best modern day coaches. In similar circumstances to Ferguson, who led Aberdeen breaking the Old Firm dominance in Scottish football, winning three Scottish league titles; Mourinho led FC Porto to European glory with a restricted budget, playing with a never-say-die attitude.
It’s Mourinho’s team building skills that take centre stage. Given unlimited funds during his time at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, Mourinho has used the money to build the teams he believed could dominate football. While there might be egos within an expensive team, Mourinho managed his players; both motivational and tactically. His transformation of Samuel Eto’o from striker to wide-right forward with a defensive role is a credit to his ability to get the best out of his players. His Real Madrid team is constructed in his way: Superb on the counter, dominant in possession, fiercely defensive and built with a winning mentality.
At one point, Mourinho was heavily linked to replacing the Scotsman when talk of retirement came up in the press. Will Mourinho take charge of Manchester United one day? Probably not, but ‘The Special One’ will push Ferguson’s trophy haul very close.
Messi, Xavi, Villa, Pedro, Puyol, Dani Alves. Just to name a few of what many critics and football pundits are saying is one of the greatest sides to ever play football. Barcelona 2009-11 is a team build like no other, playing dynamic football, scoring goals for fun and winning trophies by the dozen. A team like this needs a manager to ensure that not only do they play and win, but to maintain its dominance, to motivate this team which has won everything that can be won. Josep Guardiola or Pep for short, is the creator of this magnificent team.
Learning from his mentor, Johan Cruyff, Guardiola’s philosophy of tiki-taka football, characterized by short passing and movement, maintaining possession and working the ball through various channels, has been perfected to the extreme. His team plays no other way and Guardiola’s obsession with pressuring the team upfront has ensured that Barcelona bombarded their opposition’s goals, forcing them into mistakes and costly errors. Possession is a form of defence for this team.
What makes him similar to Ferguson is not just his style of play, as Ferguson himself is a fan of playing fast, attacking football, but his ability to motivate his players. After winning two Champions League trophies plus three consecutive La Liga titles, most managers would find it difficult to motivate their squad and make them win it all again. But Guardiola has done that. He’s been able to make his players push themselves for the team, winning games at all costs, not letting egos get in the way of the team (example being the selling of Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic). What’s scary though is that Guardiola doesn’t look like letting up, with a fourth La Liga and third Champions League title in his eyes. Being the iconic son of Barcelona, he doesn’t look like leaving any time yet. Another 25 years perhaps?
While he is technically known as the ‘New Mourinho’, there is no question that Andre Villas-Boas could in fact become his own man. One season of top-flight football doesn’t mean you’ll have a fantastic career in front of you, but Villas-Boas’s start was sensational. Unbeaten in the Portuguese League, winning both the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League in his first season, Villas-Boas has all the ingredients to become a fantastic manager.
Managing Chelsea is another thing all together. But unlike previous managers at the Blues, Villas-Boas has been given the chance to construct his own team, creating it in his own way, playing a very similar style to Guardiola’s Barcelona. Old timers like Drogba, Lampard, and Malouda are making way for the new breed of Torres, Mata and Lukaku. His start has been impressive and Chelsea is still in the hunt for all major trophies this season. He has started from scratch, rebuilding the club in his own way – much like Ferguson did on his arrival in 1986.
Villas-Boas’s ability is to construct teams playing his way, but in a similar mould to Ferguson, managing his players. To his players’ eyes, he is their best friend, building close relationships so that they do anything and everything for their manager. But he is also known to (for lack of a better expression) give his players the ‘hairdryer’ treatment. Remind you of someone else?
The only thing going against this very talented manager is that he himself admits that coaching a team is “a stressful job, which is why I don’t want to be doing it for a long time.” Ferguson though also brushed away retirement in 2002 and Manchester United has dominated since then. Could Villas-Boas talk himself out of retiring at an early age and establish a team decade of dominance?
THE QUIET GERMAN
A long shot, but Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund’s manager, has the potential to be one of the best managers in the game. A bit early to judge, but Klopp has shown the skills and abilities to create and manage a team to success.
He became Dortmund coach in 2008 after seven very successful years at Mainz 05. His real success comes from managing Dortmund. Arriving at the club, he did away with the older players and instead focused completely on youth. Over three seasons, Klopp has developed Dortmund from mid-table achievers to Bundesliga champions. A one-off perhaps? Maybe, but Klopp had planned the implementation to give younger players a chance to impress; a very similar plan concocted by Ferguson, putting then youngsters Beckham, Scholes and Giggs into the first team. The success was instant, and Klopp has followed the same path.
The names now speak for themselves: Mats Hummels, Mario Götze, Kevin Großkreutz, Robert Lewandowski, Lucas Barrios and now Real Madrid player Nuri Sahin. It’s Klopp’s ability to successfully implement these young players into a formation and style which has lead to glory. In terms of man-management, Klopp was able to keep these younglings motivated and not let them crumble in the run-in to the Bundesliga title last season. Something that even great managers like Arsene Wenger has failed to do at Arsenal. Klopp showed great experience by even taking off Mario Gotze at one point last season because he was “too good” and didn’t want the media to put extra pressure on Gotze. Clearly Klopp knows how to handle the players and the media.
Faced with a rejuvenated Bayern Munich this season, and facing Champions League matches, Klopp has managed keep the motivation high. Dortmund are in second place behind Bayern and still have a chance to make the Round of 16 in Europe if they win their final two games. But with Klopp in charge, that’s possible. A long shot, but the potential is there.