Top Five Greatest International Managers

Plenty of football coaches have been hailed as the greatest ever, but who are the best international managers of all time?

European Championships trophy

We’ve compiled a list of our best five and here they are, in no particular order

Vittorio Pozzo

The best place to start is with the only person to have led a men’s team to two World Cup triumphs.

Vittorio Pozzo won the World Cup with Italy in 1934 and 1938 and also led his country to the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Il Vecchio Maestro (The Old Master) led the Azzurri to a 30-match unbeaten run between 1935 and 1939 that was only beaten by Roberto Mancini’s European champions in 2021.

He left the post after the 1948 Olympics, having been in charge for 19 years, the longest stay of any European national team manager.

Mario Zagallo

Brazilian Mario Zagallo had already won two World Cups as a player in 1958 and 1962 before he took charge of arguably the greatest international team of all time, the one that beat Italy 4-1 in the 1970 final in Mexico.

But that was only the start of his long association with the national team as his team finished fourth in 1974 and he was also assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team that triumphed against Italy again in 1994.

Zagallo was the manager when Brazil lost to hosts France in the 1998 World Cup final, a year after he had led his nation to a Copa America triumph in 1997, so there is pretty much nothing that he hasn’t achieved.

Helmut Schon

Helmut Schon led West Germany to four World Cup finals and no manager has been in charge of more games at the finals (25) and won more of them (16).

After being assistant manager between 1959 and 1964, he lost his first World Cup final when they were defeated 4-2 by England in 1966 and, after leading his country to third spot four years later, he finally got his hands on the trophy when West Germany beat the Netherlands in 1974.

That victory came two years after success in the European Championships and two years before they were beaten by Czechoslovakia and Antonin Panenka’s cheeky penalty in a shootout in the Euros final.

Rinus Michels

Schon’s opposite number in the 1974 final was Rinus Michels, who may not have had the trophy success of some of the others on this list but deserves inclusion because his teams played such wonderful football.

The father of Total Football had led Ajax to three successive European Cup triumphs with talismanic superstar Johan Cruyff and the pair were integral to arguably the greatest team never to have won the World Cup.

He did return to the Dutch hotseat 14 years later when his team that included Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, beat the Soviet Union in the final of the European Championships.

Vicente del Bosque

Vicente del Bosque won the Champions League twice with Real Madrid, but he will always be hailed as a hero in Spain after directing them to their first World Cup triumph in South Africa in 2010.

He inherited a team who had won the European Championships the year before but helped his side to develop into by far the best international team on the planet.

They retained their European crown in 2012 when they brushed Italy aside 4-0 in the final in Kyiv and while he was unable to repeat the magic in Brazil two years later, his place in history had already been assured.

A vastly experienced journalist, Ian has worked the beat on a number of local newspapers and covers a number of different sports for the Racing Post
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