Being a great player does not equate to being a great manager, that much is clear, with the likes of Diego Maradona, Hristo Stoichkov and Graeme Souness proving that. However, it is still rare in the modern game for there to be managers who weren't at least half decent players. The vast majority of this list is made up a very successful managers, with only a couple of exceptions, yet none of them had any noteworthy success as players.
Many played non-league and amateur soccer, whilst some never even got that far. Those on this list who did make the grade of professional soccer either didn't last long or were simply known as terrible players. The list is restricted primarily to those who have had decent spells in management with fairly reputable clubs, all but one of the men featured on this list have won trophies, and a number of them have won many.
One of the managers on this list famously said "I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first," when he was questioned about his lack of playing experience. As time goes by, coaches who have been involved in the back room staff at clubs without having played the game are given more opportunities, and we could well see an increase in managers who couldn't actually play the game very well. Here are the top 15 managers who were rubbish as players:
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15 Louis van Gaal
The current Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal has had great success with Ajax, Barcelona, AZ and Bayern Munich. Van Gaal has announced that Manchester United will be his last management job before retiring, and when he does finally call it a day, the Dutchman will be regarded as one of the finest managers of his generation. His list of honors include the Eredivisie, La Liga, Bundesliga and the Champions League, among others. Van Gaal began his playing career at Ajax, but don't be fooled by that. He never played for the club, he spent time playing in Belgium and Holland, mostly in the second division where he never impressed a great deal.
14 Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez became the new Real Madrid manager this summer, a move which shocked some people after an average two year spell at Napoli. Benitez is no stranger to Real though; having been born in Madrid he joined the club as a youngster. Benitez played for both the Real youth and reserve teams but never came close to the first team. The other two team Benitez played for were minnows Paria and Linares in the third and fourth divisions, an injury at 26 ended his unremarkable playing career. Benitez's greatest managerial achievements to date are two La Liga titles with Valencia and a Champions League win with Liverpool.
13 Arsene Wenger
There were a few raised eyebrows when Arsenal appointed Arsene Wenger. Despite a successful stint with Monaco he had spent the last two years working in Japan, but his first decade with the Gunners certainly shut up any critics, as the North London club won 11 trophies in his first 10 years in charge, including the incredible invincible season. As a player, Wenger was a born tactician and leader, but lacked the pace, power or ability to ever make it at the highest level. He spent most of his time playing in the amateur league, mixed with a brief spell in the second tier and three years in Ligue 1, in which time he played only 11 games.
12 Juande Ramos
Juande Ramos has experienced mixed fortunes as a manager, but certainly more success that he ever experienced on the pitch. Ramos began his career at Elche but failed to make much of an impression at the club before moving around between Alcoyano, Linares, Eldense, Alicante and Denia, all in the Spanish lower leagues, mostly the third division, where Ramos played as a central midfielder. As a manager, Ramos' most successful time came with Sevilla, where he won two UEFA Cups, one Super Cup and one Copa del Rey.
11 Sven-Goran Eriksson
Sven is one of the wealthiest men in soccer having been a high-earning boss for over three decades now. Despite having achieved next to nothing of any worth since the year 2000, it is quite staggering that the last deal Sven put pen to was worth an incredible $24 million. As a player, his contracts were rather less lucrative, which is hardly surprising considering that the highest level he ever played at was the Swedish second division. He played for four teams in Sweden before retiring at the age of 27 after a nasty injury.
10 Guy Roux
Guy Roux spent his entire nine year career at Auxerre. That may not sound too bad today, but that is only because Roux made Auxerre the highly respected French side that they are today. When he played for the club, they were an amateur side who rarely pulled up any trees. Roux became the clubs manager at the age of 23, staying on as a player, but it was clear his skills were in management and not on the pitch. He took them from the third division to Ligue 1, eventually winning the Ligue 1 title, and four Coupe de France titles, and extraordinary achievement which has made Roux an eternal legend in Auxerre.
9 Jose Mourinho
With 17 major trophies to his name, Jose Mourinho is the seventh most successful manager of all-time, and at the age of 52 he still has plenty of time to rise up that list and surpass Sir Alex Ferguson who has 35. Mourinho was always more interested in the game away from the field, working for his father as a scout even in his teens. Mourinho's playing career began with Rio Ave, but he was told that he did not have the required pace or power to play for the club, he played for a further three Portuguese clubs before embarking upon his true love of management, where he has reached such greatness.
8 Gerard Houllier
Gerard Houllier is the first on this list who really truly never came close to breaking into professional soccer. Houllier was training to become a school teacher when he was sent to spend a year working in a comprehensive school in Liverpool. A keen soccer player, Houllier joined the local amateur side Alsop, but he was just that, a keen player, and never when of any noticeable ability. When he returned to France he began playing for minnows AC Le Touquet, he may not have impressed in the amateur game but it strengthed his love for soccer and he eventually joined RC Lens, kick starting a successful managerial career, most notable with PSG, Liverpool and Lyon.
7 Roy Hodgson
England manager Roy Hodgson like so many on this list, had his eye on coaching and management from very early on in his playing career. A product of the Crystal Palace youth system, Hodgson was never good enough to break into the Eagles first team and dropped down to non-league side Tonbridge Wells; before moves to Gravesend & Northfleet, Maidstone, Ashford, Berea and Carshalton, odds are you've never heard of any of those teams, and that's no surprising with the fifth tier being the highest level he ever played. As a manager, Hodgson has had success in Scandinavia and Italy, but there are some doubts regarding his ability as England manager.
6 Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari has won 20 trophies as a manager, including the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, but as a player, he was truly dreadful. Deployed as a no-nonsense type defender, Scolari was better at kicking opposition players than the ball. So bad was the young Scolari that he was known locally as "perna-de-pau", which translates as "wooden leg", a term commonly used in Portuguese-speaking nations for woeful soccer players. The highest level Scolari played at was the third tier, in his eight year career with Caxias, Juventude, Novo Hamburgo and CSA. He is currently managing Guangzhou Evergrande in China after a humiliating 2014 World Cup with his country.
5 Bill Struth
With 30 trophies to his name, including 18 Scottish League titles, 10 Scottish Cup titles and two Scottish League Cup titles, Bill Struth is one of the most successful managers of all time; yet he never played soccer at any level as a player. He was a keen sportsman but it was athletics where he excelled, before becoming a stonemason, and a career in soccer management didn't look likely. Having worked as a trainer at Clyde, he soon joined Hearts and eventually Rangers, where he would have such incredible success, winning 30 trophies in 34 years of management.
4 Carlos Alberto Parreira
The second former Brazil manager to make this list; but whilst Scolari may have been known as 'wooden leg', people could not mock Parreira's skills on the pitch, because he never took to one. He had zero playing experience, but having been a fitness coach for a number of years, he was asked to become a coach in Kuwait. Bring it forward a few decades and Parreira has taken five nations to the World Cup; Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Brazil, the last of which he has taken to two and won one, in 1994. Parreira retired from management in 2010.
3 Ron Noades
The least successful manager on this list and, it is probably fair to say, the worst player. Whilst the others on here may have only played at amateur level or only worked as backroom staff, they were all involved in sports of sorts. Ron Noades was a businessman, pure and simple. Yet that didn't stop his taking the reigns at two of the clubs he owned, Crystal Palace and Brentford in the late 1990s. As a manager, he did win one promotion and was named Manager of the Year with Brentford one season, but he sold the club that summer and hence ceased to be the club's manager.
2 Andre Villas Boas
Andre Villas Boas, or AVB, as he is commonly known, is probably the most high-profile active manager who has never played soccer at any level. That is to say not at amateur level, not at non-league, not even for any academies that we know of, AVB began working for Sir Bobby Robson at the age of 16, and became immersed in the game from then on. At the age of 21 he was assistant to Jose Mourinho and managing the Brirtish Virgin Islands national team. By the time he was 29 he was managing in the top flight and in 2011 he became the youngest man to ever win a European title as manager. AVB currently manages Zenit Saint Petersburg.
1 Arrigo Sacchi
"I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first," that quote you read in the introduction, was Arrigo Sacchi. There is no greater example of a fine manager who was far from being a fine player. When Italy faced Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final the two managers were Carlos Alberto Parreira and Arrigo Sacchi, two men who had zero playing experience managing the biggest soccer game on the planet. Sacchi failed to make the grade with a lowly Italian side and became a shoe salesman instead.
He soon got his break in management though, and after impressing with Parma he was given the AC Milan job, where he would make history. He soon answered his critics at Milan, winning the Serie A title in his debut season, the club's first for nine years. His greatest achievement in management though was undoubtedly winning back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. He later managed Italy and Atletico Madrid, before returning to Parma, where he retired in 2001.
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