Top 10 Most Controversial Managers Of All Time

In some form or another, managers have a habit of courting controversy. Whether it is surrounding bad decisions on the field of play or comments made off the pitch, coaches are at the mercy sometimes of the authorities. However, more often than not, managers become cheesed off at the standard of refereeing. After all, this could cost a team more than just a result. It could have a significant impact on the outcome of a league title or worse still a relegation.

Managers plan and prepare all throughout the year in what is a long season whichever league they are based in. On the other hand, they may also have to prepare for a host of other fixtures which may not help matters. This includes the likes of not only cup competitions but friendlies and cup replays. In this way, it can lead to a right royal fixture pile up and exasperate a manager’s mood.

One such example was Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal who recently landed himself in hot water. This was largely in part thanks to his comments regarding a cup match against lower league side Cambridge United. In the end, the Dutch coach steered the Red Devils to victory in a replay at Old Trafford but he was warned regarding his comments. According to several sources, Van Gaal’s biggest gripe was surprisingly that everything was against him including the referee. Nonetheless, he was given a footballing dressing down by the English FA and managed to escape a hefty fine. Yet, many aspects of the game ensure coaches are wound up to the maximum. From on the bench antics to off the field behaviour, here is the official rundown of the Top 10 Most Controversial Managers Of All Time.

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10 Alan Pardew

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The footballing equivalent of Charles Bronson, Alan Pardew has a string of controversial moments to his name. The former Crystal Palace player and current manager of the Eagles have had a turbulent time as coach to a certain extent. He came to the fore whilst manager at Reading back in 1999. After impressing at the Madjeski Stadium, the door of West Ham United flew wide open. A bitter legal battle ensued and Pardew resigned from the Royals in the end and was placed on gardening leave. In October 2003, he joined the Hammers and one of his most stand out moments was the capture of the Argentine pair, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez.

However, Pardew came under pressure from West Ham fans and departed in December 2006. Another moment took place when Pardew was a pundit for the BBC when he declared that Chelsea’s Michael Essien had “absolutely raped” Ched Evans of the ball. He was later forced to apologize but didn’t do his reputation any favors. Other incidents involved a dugout bust up with Arsene Wenger as well as a head butt which he placed towards Hull City player last season.

9 Arrigo Sacchi

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One of the greatest coaches of all time, Arrigo Sacchi has come to the limelight recently for all the wrong reasons. He has a host of titles to his name such as Serie A, whilst he dominated the European scene with back to back European cup titles back in 1989 and 1990. This team was lauded by many as it featured Dutch trio, Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. The former AC Milan boss has been in trouble over alleged comments regarding there being too many black players in Italian football. According to several media reports from Italy, Sacchi proclaimed that; "In our youth sector there are too many blacks."

8 Paolo Di Canio

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Considered to be one of the finest Premier League players of all time, Paolo di Canio has certainly had a chequered career as a coach. As a player for Lazio he was caught up in a bitter racist incident where he made a fascist salute towards home fans. Meanwhile, he was brought in as manager of Swindon Town back in May 2011.

In his first season, Di Canio managed to get Swindon up into League 1 in spite of a lack of financial backing. He was greeted as a hero initially by supporters for the remarkable transformation of the club. Although this was not to last and he even managed to have a fight with one of his own players in the dressing room. Swindon’s chief executive at the time deemed the Italian’s style as being “managed by hand grenade.” A short stint at Sunderland followed with a major highlight being the 3-0 win over arch rivals Newcastle at St. James Park. Again Di Canio’s reign was littered with controversy and he even banned ketchup from meals.

7 Glenn Hoddle

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Former Tottenham Hotspur legend Glenn Hoddle had an impressive career as a player. His midfield jiggery pokery knew no bounds, whilst he excelled at international level for England. He played for the likes of AS Monaco not to mention Chelsea and a short stint at Swindon Town. However, it was to all come crashing down when he made the move to manager.

The moment which was going to haunt Hoddle was when in charge of England at France 98. Having taken on the services of a faith healer in the form of Eileen Drewery, who would adopt a series of bizarre methods on the squad. According to Gary Neville’s autobiography when describing the England match before Argentina, “"One of the masseurs told me Glenn had asked the staff to walk around the pitch anti-clockwise during the game against Argentina to create positive energy. Sadly, it didn't do us much good."

6 Harry Redknapp

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Another coach who has had his ups and downs is Harry Redknapp. The majority of his clubs have come within an 80 mile radius having coached the likes of Bournemouth as well as Southampton and West Ham United. He was also manager at Tottenham Hotspur where he brought back an attacking style of play to White Hart Lane. In spite of the fact that Redknapp led Spurs to the UEFA Champions League, he was dismissed soon after. This was down to headlines that were linking Redknapp with the England manager’s job at the time. In addition to this, he has recently left Queens Park Rangers this month where his win rate was less than a dismal 25%.

5 Ruud Gullit


Former Dutch legend Ruud Gullit is yet another former boss with an illustrious career. He was an integral part of the AC Milan team that enjoyed so much European glory in the late 80s and early 90s. In fact, Gullit claimed two European titles with AC Milan back in 1989 and 1990, whilst he also turned out for Chelsea and Sampdoria. When it comes to his managerial career, Gullit has had a tumultuous time of it. The most controversial incident took place whilst he was in charge at Newcastle United. On a cold and wet winters day Gullit decided to do one of the ultimate footballing crimes. He dropped Geordie hero and local lad Alan Shearer to the substitute’s bench in a bizarre move which struck a vital chord with the fans. He was never to live this down and departed Tyneside accordingly.

4 Arsene Wenger

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He has been a game changer in the English Premier League for the best part of two decades but Arsene Wenger is guilty of several controversial episodes. His footballing philosophy saw the Gunners enjoy a Double under his helm and more recently another FA Cup triumph in 2014 over Hull City. Yet, his teams have been known to have a physical side.

This is backed up by numerous stats including receiving 80 red cards over a 15 year period up to 2010. If there are debatable points then more often than not Wenger reverts to his usual phrase of “I have not seen it.” He was involved in the pizzagate incident at Old Trafford when Arsenal were on their unbeaten run of 49 games. Having lost by two goals to nil, Wenger accused striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy of being a cheat and was duly fined in excess of $30,000. There have been several other clashes during his reign on the touchline, namely with Alan Pardew and this season where he appeared to shove Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

3 Brian Clough

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Arguably one of the most illustrious managers in the history of football, Brian Clough was a unique and special character. His playing career was another success where he played for his hometown of Middlesbrough scoring nearly 200 goals in 213 appearances. Having managed Derby County not to mention Leeds United, he spent most of his managerial career at Nottingham Forest. He last less than 50 days at Elland Road which still remains one of the shortest managerial reigns in history.

At the City Ground, Clough achieved the impossible and won not one but two European Cups. It was an unlikely scenario but he managed to make several commentators quake in their boots including an infamous interview with the BBCs John Motson. His turn of phrase and his sharp wit were just part of his footballing arsenal which is summed up when he said “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”

2 Jose Mourinho

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The most colourful character in today’s game, Chelsea manager has courted controversy several times along his football journey. Ever since he sat for the first time in a press conference and declared he was the “Special One”, Mourinho has been involved in a variety of spats. From poking former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova in the eye to calling Arsene Wenger “a voyeur” he is box office entertainment.

The Portuguese has had several touchline quibbles down the years and has sparked a wealth of controversial incident. Most notably, this came in the Carling Cup Final against Liverpool. It is Mourinho’s iconic gesture of shushing the crowd which is most memorable, whilst his touchline antics when Porto knocked Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League is a sight to behold.

1 Sir Alex Ferguson

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If Jose Mourinho is the apprentice then Sir Alex Ferguson is without question the soccer sorcerer. In a coaching career spanning more than three decades, he has had his rivals down the years from Arsene Wenger to Jose Mourinho. After all, which other coach could spawn the phrase “Fergie Time?” The stats back this up as according to Opta there were many games between 2010 and 2012 which involved more overtime, especially where United were trailing. Some of his most controversial moments have involved the lambasting of referees either for their abysmal decisions or in some case being overweight. Furthermore, Sir Alex had a long running dispute with the BBC where he refused to conduct interviews, whilst there’s of course the flying boot kick which left David Beckham requiring stitches.

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