Three Football Managers Who Have Never Played the Game Professionally

In elite sport, there is an old adage which suggests that players only tend to respect coaches who have enjoyed tremendous success at the highest level. However, in football, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In recent years, there has been a spate of managers who have taken over at top level clubs despite having very little first-hand experience of playing the game professionally. We have picked out a trio of coaches who have thrived in the dugout despite having never stepped out onto the pitch. 

Andre Villas-Boas 

At the age of 16, Villas-Boas was asked to join Bobby Robson’s coaching staff at FC Porto, following a number of in-depth tactical discussions between the pair. Having obtained his UEFA coaching licenses, he then became assistant to Jose Mourinho, before deciding to concentrate on his own managerial career at Academica. 

The Porto-born boss is currently managing Marseille, however, he may be best remembered for his largely forgettable nine-month stint at Stamford Bridge. Although he won’t be fondly remembered in West London, the Blues created plenty of chances during this brief tenure, firing in the second highest number of shots in the division. 

He remains the youngest coach to win a major European trophy, and despite a couple of blips along the way, he is generally considered to be an extremely savvy and astute tactician. 

Julian Nagelsmann 

Unlike Villas-Boas, Julian Nagelsmann actually played the game at youth level, before persistent knee complaints prevented him from embarking upon a professional career. The 33-year old decided to step away from the game, studying sports science at university, although it wasn’t long until he made his return, taking up a coaching role at FC Augsburg. 

He became the youngest manager in the history of the Bundesliga when taking over at Hoffenheim at the beginning of 2016, and despite their prospects looking fairly bleak, he somehow managed to steer the Sinsheim club to safety. The following season, he introduced a number of innovative methods to help enhance his players’ performances in training including the installation of a video wall on the halfway line of the pitch. 

After helping the club to qualify for the Europe for the first time in their history, he moved to RB Leipzig. Although their title hopes faded with several games left to play, the Landsberg Am Lech-born coach became the youngest manager to win a Champions League knock-out game in March 2020. This was closely followed by a victory over Atletico Madrid which saw the club make it through to the semi-finals for the first time. They are $10.00 in the latest football betting odds to win the competition this season, with many online bookmakers evidently wary of underestimating one of the sport’s brightest young managers. 

Leonardo Jardim 

Despite having never played the single minute of professional football, Leonardo Jardim enjoyed a triumphant spell at Monaco between 2014 and 2018. He oversaw one of the greatest periods in the Principality club’s history, helping to guide them to their eighth Ligue 1 title. After two successive third place finishes, Les Monegasques saw off the challenge of a number of cash-rich rivals to secure an unlikely triumph. 

The Venezuelan-born boss had one of the most exciting young squads in Europe with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Bernardo Silva all performing at the highest level. Sadly, the vultures were circling, and with the majority of his star assets sold off at the end of the campaign, Jardim was unable to replicate those heroics the following season. 

Although playing football to a high standard does undoubtedly allow coaches to gain an understanding of the pressures that come with being an elite level performer, having a successful playing career is far from a prerequisite to becoming a solid manager. These three renowned tacticians have proved that you don’t need to have enjoyed a long and illustrious playing career in order to flourish in the dugout. 

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