Who’d be a manager, eh? Who’d risk becoming a national pariah, a fraud and a scoundrel in either your home or newly-adopted country, all in the hope of a multi-million-pound pay-out and a reworked Millennial pop banger by Atomic Kitten with your name in?
Well, this lot, actually.
Ahead of next month’s World Cup in Qatar here’s a brief, yet extremely insightful, look at all the 32 managers we’ll soon be watching glare and grimace from the sidelines as their future career prospects, and hopes for the tournament, flash before their eyes.
Career Titles: 2019 Asian Cup
Having worked his way through a dream career ladder progression of Barcelona youth coach to Qatar Under-19s manager, to Qatar Under-20s manager, to Qatar Under-23s manager, to senior side manager, Felix Sanchez clearly has the requisite pedigree to lead this storied footballing nation to exactly zero wins, a point if they’re lucky and a fourth-place finish in Group A.
Career Titles: Primera B Nacional (2), Copa Sudamericana, Argentine Primera Division, Copa Argentina, Supercopa Argentina, Superliga Argentina
A journeyman throughout South America, Gustavo Alfaro’s teams managed list is quite a sight to behold for anyone looking to kill 10 minutes at work on Wikipedia.
He did, however, win the Argentinian Primera Division with Boca Juniors in 2019/20. Ecuador’s chances at the World Cup will likely have a lot less to do with him than they do with the fact that they are still relying on Enner Valencia up front. Who is also captain.
Career Titles: Africa Cup of Nations
The former PSG, Birmingham and Portsmouth midfielder will be hoping to follow Senegal’s first and only Africa Cup of Nations victory last year with a strong showing at the World Cup. By far the coolest manager of an admittedly catastrophically uncool group, so credit for that at least above all else.
Career Titles: Eredivisie (4), KNVB Cup, Johan Cruyff Shield (3), UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup, La Liga (2), Copa del Rey, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup, FA Cup
Three is the magic number, as they say. The man who once famously introduced Mr Mike Smalling as his third captain is back in charge of Holland for a third time after finishing third in 2014. Can Van Gaal go one better and win the Dutch their first ever World Cup? It’s a task made even more difficult given Ron Vlaar is no longer around to shackle Lionel Messi, a thing that definitely did actually happen, I swear.
Career Titles: None
The manager who singlehandedly increased Next waistcoat sales by 4000% is back for his second World Cup after leading England to fourth place during that glorious summer of 2018. Given how generous England’s group is there are no excuses not to reach the knockout stages (and for Harry Kane not to be in contention for another Golden Boot). Over to you, Gareth.
Career Titles: Taca de Portugal, Supertaca Candido de Oliveira, Supercopa de Espana
Back in charge of Iran at a third World Cup, spectators wait with bated breath to see whether the stunning front-flip throw-ins of Milad Mohammadi will once again be incorporated into Carlos Queiroz’s brilliant attacking blueprint.
Career Titles: CONCACAF Nations League, CONCACAF Gold Cup
You still thought this was still Bob Bradley, didn’t you? You did. Own up. Well it’s not, it’s Gregg Berhalter. Who is slightly less but still considerably bald.
Career Titles: None
Speaking of, here’s Rob Page, who has done a very credible job with Wales since replacing poet Ryan Giggs. L is for legs, L is also for legs. And those are two things neither Gareth Bale nor Aaron Ramsey possess heading into this World Cup.
Career Titles: Copa America, CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions
There’s a kind of poetry at work here given that Lionel Messi is quietly relying on a distinctly average full back turned tactical genius to help make his final World Cup a success. Argentina are unbeaten in 35 games heading into the tournament, the longest active streak and nearing the 37-game record held by Italy. And it’s all down to the man who once played 13 league games on loan at West Ham, Lionel Scaloni.
Career Titles: COSAFA Cup, Africa Cup of Nations (2)
With a crisp white shirt, popped top button and hair so floppy and blonde even Jaime Lannister is jealous, Herve Renard will reign supreme as the most handsome manager on the touchline in Qatar. But will Saudi Arabia be any good? Absolutely not! Hooray!
Career Titles: Paraguayan Primera Division (4), Argentine Primera Division: 2013 Final, Supercopa de Espana, MLS Cup
A back-to-back Copa America finalist with Argentina in 2015 and 2016, although defeated twice, Gerardo Martino has the important task of ensuring Mexico face as many shots on goal as possible. It’s watching-Guillermo-Ochoa-in-a-World-Cup season baby and I for one cannot wait to see the headbanded maverick make unnecessarily flamboyant save after save.
Career Titles: Polish Cup, Polish Super Cup (2), Ekstraklasa (2),
“Czesław Michniewicz (Polish pronunciation: [ˈt͡ʂɛswaf mʲixˈɲɛvʲit͡ʂ]; born 12 February 1970) is a Polish football manager and former player who manages the Poland national team.” Or so says Wikipedia.
I really am sorry but I don’t watch the Ekstraklasa. I’m sure he’s great. How about you do your own research for once, yeah?
Career Titles: Coupe de la Ligue (4), Serie B, Ligue 1, Trophee des Champions (2), FIFA World Cup, UEFA Nations League
Didier Deschamps (born 15 October 1968) is a footballing terrorist who despite winning the World Cup is wasting this golden generation of French talent by playing overly-cautious and reductive football. Some would call him the French Gareth Southgate but not me. I’d describe Gareth Southgate as the English Didier Deschamps.
Career Titles: A-League Premiership (3), A-League Championship (2), FFA Cup
I don’t know if you watched Australia’s World Cup play-off penalty shootout against Peru, before which Arnold substituted his captain and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan for a man with the appearance and exact behavioural traits of a fan who had invaded the pitch as a dare after 12 beers, Andrew Redmayne.
Welcome to the World Cup, Graham Arnold. You belong here. More stuff like that, please.
Career Titles: Danish 1st Division, Danish Superliga
Kasper Hjulmand is one of those ‘forced to retire early due to injury’ former players who becomes a genius football manager, à la Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel and Tite – we’ll get to him later. Another strong tournament and a midtable Premier League club will surely come calling for the Dane.
Career Titles: Kirin Cup
Remember what I said about Gustavo Alfaro’s Wikipedia page? Well I hope you’ve managed to fire off a few emails in the interim because Jalel Kadri’s is another doozy, except this time largely transposed to North Africa and the Middle East.
Career Titles: La Liga (2), Copa del Rey (3), Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
Here’s Spain manager Luis Enrique announcing his Nations League squad while cycling along some of the lovely hilly roads that surround Madrid. Make of it what you will. This is why Big Sam never belonged in international management, in my opinion. That and the pints of wine.
Career Titles: Categoria Primera A
Luis Fernando Suarez is now in his sixth Latin American country after managing clubs in Colombia, Peru and Mexico along with the national teams of Ecuador, Honduras and now Costa Rica. I am, therefore, deeming him the Steve Bruce of ‘in and around the equator’, even if he is, presumably, a much better football manager.
Career Titles: Oberliga Baden-Wurttemberg, Bundesliga (2), DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
After leading Bayern Munich to their first-ever sextuple, Hansi Flick left the Bavarians with an utterly ridiculous win percentage of 81%, an average of three goals scored per game and as many defeats as total trophies – seven.
While he still can rely on old favourites Neuer, Kimmich, Goretzka, Sane, Musiala and Muller, he now has to play with Timo Werner up front rather than Robert Lewandowski, which obviously makes things quite a bit more difficult.
Career Titles: J1 League (3), Japanese Super Cup (2), EAFF E-1 Football Championship
A J-League veteran both as a player and manager, Moriyasu has been in charge of Japan’s national team since 2018 and once had trials for Manchester United. Who cares about any of that though when Japan possess the two best shirts in the entire tournament? Heart eyes emojis for days.
Career Titles: Football League One, FA Cup
Hey look, it’s everybody’s favourite former FA Cup-winning Wigan manager. Yes, he’s still playing Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen (combined age of 68) and yes, he thinks everyone else in the squad is a wing-back. Speaking of, he’s looking for cover for Yannick Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard and Leandro Trossard down the left-hand side. Are you Belgian, a winger and free this November? If so, get in touch. Roberto needs you.
Career Titles: Pan American Games, Algarve Cup
I’ve made fun of pretty much everyone on this list so far but it is genuinely great to see the relatively unknown John Herdman doing such a phenomenal job with the Canadians.
Not only has the Durham-born coach successfully transitioned from the women’s game after managing New Zealand and Canada – winning two Olympic bronze medals with the latter – but he’s also now leading the men to their first World Cup in 36 years. One of the few feel-good stories for what could prove to be an otherwise soulless spectacle.
Career Titles: Botola (2), Moroccan Throne Cup, Qatar Stars League, CAF Champions League
After the sacking of Vahid Halilhodzic in August, 45-cap former right-back Walid Regragui took over and promptly led the Atlas Lions to two friendly victories over Madagascar and Chile. Can he find a way to fit all the flair, silky dribbling and getting easily shrugged off the ball of Amine Harit, Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal into one team? Only time will tell.
Career Titles: Albanian Supercup, Saudi Crown Prince Cup, UAE President’s Cup, UAE Pro-League, UAE Super Cup
The less said about the Croatian FA the better, but in Zlatko Dalic they have a manager who looks as though he runs a major crime syndicate in a John Wick film. No wonder they hired him.
In fact, several of their players also look as though they’d pop up onscreen at some point, all wearing black suits with no tie and getting battered by Keanu Reeves who only has a pencil as a weapon for some reason. I’m looking at you, Marcelo Brozovic, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Lovre Kalinic, Bruno Petkovic and Josko Gvardiol. Possibly you, Mateo Kovacic, if you were a little taller. That’s like half the team!
Career Titles: Campeonato Gaucho – Segunda Divisao, Campeonato Gaúcho (3), Copa do Brasil, Copa Sudamericana, Suruga Bank Championship, Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, Copa Libertadores de America, FIFA Club World Cup, Campeonato Paulista, Recopa Sudamericana, Superclasico de las Americas, Copa America
If there’s one thing all the fellas playing beach football down on the Copacabana love, it’s Tite. Once mentored by the legend that is Big Phil Scolari, Tite has rejuvenated a Brazil team that had grown somewhat stale.
This was largely due to former head coach Dunga, whose football can only be described as *leans into the microphone and taps it a few times to ensure a squall of feedback* very sh*t. They go into his final tournament deserving favourites and holding a 75% win record during his tenure.
Career Titles: J.League Division 1, Japanese Super Cup
I don’t know about you but I’d love to have the name Dragan. I’d also love a strike force of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic. Sadly, however, I am not the man once described as the ‘Maradona of the Balkans’, the former Red Star Belgrade and Marseille playmaker Stojkovic, who will be leading his country in Qatar. Perennial dark horses, it’s about time Serbia lived up to the quality of their playing squad.
Career Titles: Swiss Challenge League, Swiss Super League (2)
A former stalwart of the national team alongside his younger brother Hakan Yakin, Murat has impressed as head coach of his country with recent back-to-back wins over Spain and Portugal in the Nations League. More importantly, here he is posting a big box of chocolate to Northern Ireland after their draw against Italy in qualifying helped the Swiss finish top of their qualifying group. Fantastic stuff all round.
Career Titles: None
The most capped player in Cameroonian football history with 137 appearances, Rigobert Song also represented the Indomitable Lions at four World Cups as a player. The first of which, the 1994 tournament in the US, saw him play alongside 42-year-old Roger Milla at only 17 years (and 358 days) of age, breaking the record for the largest age gap between World Cup teammates – a staggering 24 years and 42 days difference.
Funnily enough, this wasn’t too far from being broken at the last World Cup in Russia, thanks to Egypt’s then-45-year-old goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary and Stoke City legend Ramadan Sobhi.
Career Titles: Primeira Liga, Taca de Portugal (2), Supertaca Candido de Oliveira (2), Greek Cup, UEFA European Championship, UEFA Nations League
Despite leading Portugal to their only two titles, Euro 2016 – for which he has Eder to thank – and the 2019 edition of the Nations League, a tournament absolutely nobody really cares about, Fernando Santos’ reputation is less than stellar in his native country.
Another knockout game involving the gruesome Danilo Pereira-William Carvalho double pivot simply cannot be allowed to happen given all the attacking riches at this man’s disposal. Known to stick to his favourites, it will at least be quite fun to see a 39-year-old Pepe set loose in Qatar.
Sadly, however, that’s still only an 18-year age gap between the Porto defender and someone like Goncalo Ramos. Fine. I’ll get off Wikipedia.
Career Titles: None
The former Borussia Dortmund winger has largely been an assistant coach during his managerial career but has now been granted the opportunity to lead the Black Stars at their fourth World Cup. Addo was treated to something of a baptism of fire given that Ghana had to overcome Nigeria across a two-legged playoff and just about passed the test as Arsenal’s Thomas Partey sent them through on away goals.
Career Titles: Liga MX: Clausura, CONCACAF Champions League (2)
Diego Alonso has only taken charge of nine games for Uruguay since replacing the legendary Oscar Tabarez, who by contrast managed well over 200 matches across two spells and nearly 18 years, but he has won seven of them. Talk about big shoes to fill. Uruguay have a wonderful midfield, an ageing Luis Suarez and whatever the hell Darwin Nunez is for him to work with. All the best to you, Diego.
Career Titles: Taca de Portugal (2), Supertaca Candido de Oliveira (2), Super League Greece, EAFF E-1 Football Championship
Do you know how much easier this paragraph would have been if bento boxes had originated in Korea, rather than Japan? We’re 32 names deep at this point. I’m allowed to phone it in. Anyway, Paulo Bento has been all over the place, from Sporting and Portugal to Cruzeiro, Olympiacos and Chongqing Lifan.
All you need to know is that he’s now in charge of South Korea, he has two fantastic players in Son Heung-min and Kim Min-jae at his disposal and I have no more bad jokes, particularly about takeaway Asian cuisine, left to give.
Onwards, then, to Qatar.