Argentina don’t just have some of the best players on the planet. Oh no. They have some of the finest managers too. Here’s Peter Coates with the best of the best
5) Eduardo Berizzo
For the second consecutive year, unheralded Celta Vigo have reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals and just as was the case last year with victory over Atletico Madrid, no one could deny Los Celetes their deserved win against Real Madrid. At the centre of both triumphs and the club’s recent revival is Eduardo Berizzo, an outspoken, no nonsense, former player, who learned his craft under the watchful eye of Marcelo Bielsa.
Berizzo only retired as a player ten years ago but couldn’t have had a better apprenticeship in the world of coaching as he almost immediately landed the role as Bielsa’s assistant with Chile.
El Loco’s stamp has been evident and whether it was with O’Higgins or with Celta, Berizzo’s sides have played with an archetypal Bielsista intensity. Having led Celta back into European competition and again to a domestic cup semi, it surely won’t be long before Berizzo is being headhunted by Europe’s elite.
4) Marcelo Bielsa
Has a manager ever won as little yet been as influential as Marcelo Bielsa? El Loco’s mark on the modern footballing landscape is evident on this list but stretches across Europe and it is with good reason that the 61-year-old is so revered in the game.
Bielsa’s trophy cabinet may only have an Olympic gold medal with Argentina and a few Primera titles with Newell’s Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield but his philosophy and legion of disciples have changed football.
Pep Guardiola famously referred to Bielsa as the best coach on the planet and studied his pressing as the blueprint for his Barcelona team but the Manchester City manager is far from alone and although Bielsa’s eccentric and demanding personality perhaps doesn’t lend itself to the top jobs anymore, the former Argentina coach is tipped to join Lille in the summer and may start another of his revolutions.
3 Mauricio Pochettino
It is testament to Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial qualities that Tottenham Hotspur are now genuine Premier League title challengers and while Spurs may ultimately fall short come May, the 44-year-old has molded an impressive side without the superstars that his rivals boast and looks destined for a great future.
Another of Bielsa’s students, Pochettino emerged from Newell’s Old Boy’s academy under El Loco and after a successful playing career has moved seamlessly into management.
Pochettino’s vibrant Espanyol side drew praise, his Southampton team punched well above their weight and now the improvements made to Tottenham make them one of the top sides in the Premier League.
Tactically and individually, with the likes of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, Spurs have gone up a level (or several) and the club will have to match the ambition of one of world football’s top managers if they are to keep hold of him for the long term.
2 Diego Simeone
With Atletico Madrid all but out of the title race in Spain, there is a sense that the Diego Simeone era could be coming to an end after a summer in which the fiery coach was linked with a move away from the Estadio Vicente Calderon. The 46-year-old opted to remain ahead of the club’s move to a new stadium in the near future but this season’s failings shouldn’t detract from an impeccable job with Atleti.
A fierce competitor on the pitch, El Cholo took that into his managerial career and while there were ups and downs during his initial forays into coaching in Argentina, Simeone lifted two Primera titles with Estudiantes and River Plate while honing his craft.
With commitment and a work ethic drilled into them, Atleti have been transformed into one of Europe’s elite sides under Simeone despite the frequent change in personnel and when the time finally comes for El Cholo to move on, Los Colchoneros’ loss will certainly be someone else’s gain.
1) Jorge Sampaoli
There is no doubting Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli but while El Loco won nothing more than compliments while manager of Chile, his student Sampaoli ended La Roja’s 99-year wait to lift the Copa America title.
Don Sampa’s high-pressure, high-tempo and highly successful Universidad de Chile side earned him the top job in Chile and following his Bielsista blueprint, Sampaoli didn’t disappoint.
However, the jury was still out and following a brief spell away from the game, Sampaoli replaced PSG-bound Unai Emery in Sevilla. Despite losing key players over the same summer and suffering early defeats to Real Madrid and Barcelona, Los Rojiblancos have defied the critics.
With no signs of the ‘Bielsa-burnout’ that many of these often chaotic, intense sides are accused of, Sevilla have crashed the league title race and Barcelona are already being linked with a possible move for the 56-year-old should Luis Enrique be replaced.
If the top jobs in football demand a strong motivator, an adept tactician, who plays an attractive, successful brand of football and who can get individuals playing to their maximum then Jorge Sampaoli is increasingly looking like that man.