Managers are primarily judged on their ability to win silverware, especially at the elite level of football. They have significantly less means to impress the masses in comparison to players, who are assessed on not only their trophy cabinet, but other criteria such as their goal output, pass accuracy, successful tackles percentage or saves per shots ratio.
As per usual in the modern game, money is a significant factor in the workings of a manager. Some prefer to invest in youth development, while others chase ready-made superstars in a bid to secure immediate results. Either approach is viable, but more and more are gearing their transfer policy towards the latter as the cut-throat business of top-flight management becomes increasingly ruthless.
Of course, some clubs possess more extensive financial resources than others, which ultimately determines the amount of transfer funds made available to a manager. With each passing season, the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City and Manchester United all stake their claim as the biggest spender in world football.
Most supporters would be able to have a fairly accurate idea of which clubs fork out the most cash on player transfers. However, given the constant chopping and changing of managers between these clubs and others at the top of the game, would you feel confident trying to name the highest spending managers?
Here are the top 20 bosses who’ve shelled out the most dosh on player transfers between the 2005-06 and 2015-16 seasons.
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20 Juande Ramos – €278.69m
Remember Juande Ramos? His impressive CV comprises the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Sevilla and Real Madrid, but the Spaniard has somewhat faded into obscurity since he was replaced at the Santiago Bernabeu by Manuel Pellegrini in June 2009. Ramos, who has since held the reins at CSKA Moscow and then Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, isn’t one to shy away from spending big to get his man. Currently a free agent, the 61-year-old is responsible for a number of expensive transfers since 2005, including Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Lassana Diarra to Real Madrid for close to €50m and the €22m flop that was David Bentley to Spurs.
19 Rudi Garcia – €300.85m
Rudi Garcia has given AS Roma squad a serious makeover since being appointed head coach in June 2013. During the last two seasons, the 51-year-old has brought in a host of high-quality first-team players including Juan Manuel Iturbe, Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan, Seydou Doumbia and Edin Dzeko. However, these five star players didn’t come cheap. With less funds available at Dijon, Le Mans and Lille compared to Roma, it’s safe to assume Garcia had been on a tighter leash throughout his managerial career, but with two runner-up finishes in his first two Serie‘A campaigns, his big-money transfer dealings have paid dividends so far.
18 Luis Enrique – €313.06m
For a man who enjoyed so much success as a Barcelona player, Luis Enrique made his mark as a manager in a fittingly short period of time. Following spells with Barca B, Roma and Celta Vigo between 2008 and 2014, the 45-year-old arrived in the Nou Camp hot seat with a fair reputation. His first transfer window in charge of Barca saw the arrival of some remarkable signings, Luis Suarez being the most impressive of all, albeit for €81m. Although the Uruguayan is the only superstar name to join the club during his tenure, Enrique has also spent close to €100m on Arda Turan, Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen and Ivan Rakitic in the last 18 months.
17 Diego Simeone – €317.83m
It’s difficult to fault Diego Simeone when it comes to getting value for money in the transfer market. Despite losing key players such as Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Arda Turan, the Argentine has consistently managed to replace his top players for a modest price. At €35m, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez is the most expensive signing Simeone has ever made, a commendable statistic given he has brought the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, Luciano Vietto and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to the Vicente Calderon.
16 Luciano Spalletti – €327.48m
Russian football manages to gloss over its comparative lack of prestige by offering big-name players massive wage packets to pull on a pair of gloves and brave the bitter cold. Luciano Spalletti, a man who cut his teeth in football management in Italy, knows (and has) capitalised on the wealth within the region better than most. The Italian steered the ship at Roma between 2005 and 2009 before joining cashed-up Zenit Saint Petersburg in December. Given extensive financial support under the provision his side would challenge on all fronts, Spalletti sought to land big names whenever possible during his five-year stint, an approach that would see Hulk, Axel Witsel and Bruno Alves join Zenit for a collective sum of €117m.
15 Claudio Ranieri – €338.75m
A manager as well-travelled as Claudio Ranieri is sure to have forked out a decent fortune in the transfer market. The Italian, who began his coaching career in 1986, has coached a top side in just about every one of Europe’s leading divisions, but it wasn’t until later in his managerial journey that he would be given the resources to spend boldly on new signings. Ranieri’s most significant captures occurred at two clubs: Monaco, where he lured James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho; and Juventus, where he brought in Vincenzo Iaquinta, Amauri and Tiago. These six players commanded a collective sum of more than €160m, a staggering figure considering Ranieri has paid more than €10m for a single player only 11 times during his career.
14 Andre Villas-Boas – €357.38m
At only 38-years-old, Andre Villas-Boas is almost certain to rocket up this list further into his management career, especially if he continues to work at clubs boasting the financial might of Zenit Saint Petersburg. The Portuguese, who joined Chelsea from Porto in 2011 after the Blues paid a £13.2m compensation fee, has invested funds to uncover a number of key players at his previous sides. Villas-Boas has demonstrated transfer savvy beyond his years, including the €13.5m capture of Christian Eriksen at Tottenham Hotspur and the signing of Thibaut Courtois for €8.95m at Chelsea.
13 Laurent Blanc – €358.70m
Having signed with Paris Saint-Germain in June of 2013, Laurent Blanc has been the manager of arguably the wealthiest club in world football long enough to rack up a sizable bill in the transfer market. The Frenchman has seen a massive influx of quality under his watch at the Parc des Princes, including the arrivals of Edison Cavani, Angel Di Maria, David Luiz, Marquinhos and Yohan Cabaye for upwards of €230m. Hellbent on challenging at the summit of European competition, the Parisian club is willing to afford Blanc the finances to acquire any player he deems necessary.
12 Massimiliano Allegri – €374.71m
Massimiliano Allegri is ticking all the right boxes to ensure Juventus continues offering him a transfer kitty worthy of a club aiming to return to the peak of European football. The former AC Milan boss guided the Turin club to its fourth consecutive Serie A title in the 2014-15 season, while securing a runners-up finish in the ever-competitive UEFA Champions League. In his bid to drive Juve back to the top, Allegri has invested heavily in first-team players, including €32m striker Paolo Dybala, €26m fullback Alex Sandro and €20m youngster Alvaro Morata.
11 Sir Alex Ferguson – €398.2m
Even if Sir Alex Ferguson spent five times as much as he did between 2005 and 2013 at Manchester United, his haul of trophies is more than valuable than any amount of money. The Old Trafford legend was never one to splash exorbitant fees on transfer targets, even if he was desperate to get his man. The most expensive players Ferguson ever signed were Dimitar Berbatov for €38m, Anderson for €31.5m, Robin van Persie for €30.7m and Luis Nani for €25.5m. Although his record in the transfer market isn’t without its blemishes, the Scot rarely made mistakes.
10 Louis van Gaal – €403.22m
Rebuilding an aging and demoralized squad always requires a significant amount of money to entice new players to the club, particularly when only the best in the world will suffice. Louis van Gaal has wasted little time adding top class names to the lockers in his dressing room, such as €50m young gun Anthony Martial, €35m midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and €27.5m winger Memphis Depay. Paying up to snare finest players on the planet is always a risk, as the Dutchman discovered after a €70m investment in Angel Di Maria yielded barely one season of temperamental form before he jumped ship to Paris Saint-Germain.
9 Mark Hughes – €408.28m
Mark Hughes might come as an unexpected name among the highest spending managers in the last decade. However, Manchester City footed the bill for a significant portion of his total outlay in the transfer market since 2005. Hughes was at the helm when the Abu Dhabi United investment group took over the Manchester club in 2008, effectively giving the Welshman free rein in the transfer market for the remainder of his tenure. He elected to bring in Robinho for €43m, Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, both for €29m, and Joleon Lescott for €27.5m. Some might argue Hughes could’ve made more sensible purchases during his stint at City, although he was only given a single season to prove himself to the new owners.
8 Brendan Rodgers – €411.58m
It wasn’t long ago Brendan Rodgers seemed to be settling in for a lengthy tenure at Liverpool, but with no trophies in three and a half years, few managers survive such a barren spell. The Northern Irishman made numerous headline signings during his time at Anfield, bringing in Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli for a combined fee of more than €65m. However, two of his final and most expensive signings raised eyebrows around the world with Roberto Firmino joining for €41m alongside €46.5m striker Christian Benteke.
7 Arsene Wenger – €472.07m
Arsene Wenger has long been criticized by all corners of the football world for being overly conservative in the transfer market. Some sections of the Arsenal faithful may disagree, but this is probably a fair assessment of the Frenchman, especially given that he had never spent more than €19m on a single player prior to signing Santi Cazorla from Malaga in 2012. The Gunners boss has been given more freedom in the transfer market of late, spending €50m on Mesut Ozil in 2013 and then €42.5m to get Alexis Sanchez in 2014.
6 Rafael Benitez – €526.64m
Rafael Benitez has managed five very wealthy, top clubs during the last decade: Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid. With each of these teams willing to break the bank in order to compete at the highest level, it’s no wonder the Spaniard has racked up his fair share of transfer payments during the last decade. Interestingly, Fernando Torres is his most expensive signing, paying €38m for the deadly striker to snare him from Atletico Madrid in 2007 while with Liverpool. Benitez has otherwise splashed more than €30m on a single player on two other occasions — when Gonzalo Higuain joined Napoli for €37m and when Danilo arrived at Real Madrid for €31.5m.
5 Pep Guardiola – €542.1m
Pep Guardiola certainly knows what it takes to win and his employers have always offered him complete support in order to provide with him any player he wants to add to his delicately crafted first team. Commanding a €69.5m fee in 2009, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most expensive player the Spaniard signed with Barcelona, followed by David Villa for €40m, Dani Alves for €35.5m and Cesc Fabregas for €34m. Guardiola has continued to chase the big names at Bayern Munich, luring Mario Gotze and Arturo Vidal for €37m apiece.
4 Roberto Mancini – €583.59m
Roberto Mancini steered the ship at Manchester City during the four seasons following the club’s takeover by the Abu Dhabi Investment group. The Italian has coughed up the big bucks for the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Walter Samuel throughout his career, but the bulk of his transfer expenditure took place during his tenure at the Etihad Stadium. It was here where he brought in Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli for a collective fee of over €170m. Now back in charge at Inter Milan, Mancini’s biggest acquisitions include €31m midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Ivan Perisic for €16m.
3 Carlo Ancelotti – €797.05m
Carlo Ancelotti kicks off the top three highest spending managers in the last decade having spent more than €200m more than Roberto Mancini in fourth place. Currently unattached, the 56-year-old made the blockbuster €174m captures of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez while in charge at his last club, Real Madrid. Ancelotti also brought Fernando Torres for €58.5m from Liverpool during his spell at Chelsea before shelling out more than €80m for Thiago Silva and Lucas Moura soon after he joined big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain.
2 Manuel Pellegrini – €860.23m
Currently in charge of one of the most financially powerful clubs in world football, Manuel Pellegrini comfortably occupies second on this list. The Chilean was the Real Madrid boss when Cristiano Ronaldo made his world record €94m move to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2009, not to mention the €65m arrival of Kaka during the same period. Roughly midway through his third season at the Etihad, Pellegrini’s biggest signing to date is Kevin De Bruyne, who switched from Wolfsburg for a whopping €74m in the summer of 2015. With Raheem Sterling, Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho racking up in excess of €200m in transfer fees between them, the rest of the Premier League is likely to continue struggling to match City for its enormous spending capability.
1 Jose Mourinho – €891.08m
A manager who’s so often dismissed as incapable of success without having vast amounts of money at his disposal, Jose Mourinho is a solid €30m clear of his nearest rival in terms of transfer expenditure over the past decade. The Portuguese has landed at least one marquee signing at each of his clubs: Andriy Shevchenko and Diego Costa at Chelsea, Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o at Inter Milan, and Angel Di Maria and Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
It would be unfair to write off his list of accolades as a product of a sugar daddy relationship with his various superiors. Mourinho has developed a distinct ideology that requires particular players, and usually expensive ones, to operate with maximum efficiency. The simple fact is the best players in the world are worth fortune in modern football and they often end up working under the best managers around.
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