Aston Villa has appointed Steven Gerrard as their new manager following the sacking of Dean Smith. The Englishman is one of the most talented midfielders in modern football, and he is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after managers in the country.
The Liverpool legend has had a fantastic start to his managerial career, winning the Scottish Championship with Rangers in 2020-21. Gerrard used his brilliant football knowledge and years of experience to put an end to Celtic’s nine-year league-winning streak.
The Englishman is just one of several former players who have moved into management and found success. On that note, here are five legends who excelled as both a player and as a manager.
Number 5: Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps is one of only three managers who have won the FIFA World Cup both as a player and as a manager.
He led France to victory in the 1998 FIFA World Cup on home soil, followed by the European Championship two years later. Deschamps has assembled one of the best squads in French history since taking over the French national team in the summer of 2012.
In his managerial role, the 53-year-old oversaw France’s 2018 FIFA World Cup victory. He also led Les Bleus to the Euro 2016 final. His most recent managerial accomplishment was winning the UEFA Nations League title in 2021. Given his accomplishments, Deschamps is expected to lead the France team at least until the FIFA World Cup next year.
As a player, Deschamps represented Juventus, Chelsea, Valencia, and Marseille. In addition to his international honors, Deschamps has won two Champions Leagues, three Serie A titles, three Ligue 1 titles, and the FA Cup, to name a few.
Number 4: Franz Beckenbauer
Franz “Der Kaiser” Beckenbauer is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most successful players in the game’s history.
During his playing career with his national team and Bayern Munich, the former West German captain won every major trophy. Beckenbauer, arguably the greatest leader in football history, led his country to the 1972 European Championships. He quickly followed that up with a FIFA World Cup victory two years later.
Beckenbauer was also instrumental in Bayern Munich’s 1970s dominance of German and European football. Between 1972 and 1974, he led the Bavarian giants to three consecutive Bundesliga titles. Between 1974 and 1976, he also won three consecutive European Cups with them.
Beckenbauer, along with Deschamps, is one of only two men to have won the FIFA World Cup as both captain and manager. Argentina’s Mario Zagallo is the other.
Beckenbauer also distinguishes being the last manager to lead a German team without any East German players.
Number 3: Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane is only the seventh person in history to have won the UEFA Champions League as both a player and a manager.
The French legend is also the only manager to have won three Champions League titles. Real Madrid was the first club in the Champions League era to do so, winning four titles in five years (one with Carlo Ancelotti).
Zidane has won the World’s Best Club Coach award twice in his brief managerial career. He is currently one of the most in-demand managers in the world of football.
The Frenchman’s playing career is self-evident. The FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, La Liga, and European Championship have all been won by the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner.
Zidane made 631 appearances for clubs such as Real Madrid and Juventus during his club career. He had 121 goals and 119 assists in his career. The Real Madrid legend will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest playmakers in football history.
Number 2: Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola is the most successful manager of the twenty-first century, having won over 30 titles.
In his managerial career, the Spaniard has found success in every position he has held. Guardiola made a name for himself as a manager after taking over at his childhood club, FC Barcelona. He became the first manager in history to win the sextuple in a single calendar year. A decade later, he became one of only four managers in Premier League history to win three titles.
Guardiola learned from one of the greatest minds in football history, Johan Cruyff. He adapted the legendary Dutchman’s ‘total football’ ideology to meet the demands of modern football. Barcelona’s tiki-taka system revolutionized modern football during Guardiola’s four years in charge.
The 50-year-old also had a very successful playing career. Guardiola has spent the majority of his career with Barcelona, but he has also played for AS Roma and Brescia, among others.
Guardiola also won the Champions League and six La Liga titles during his time in Catalonia.
Number 1: Johan Cruyff
Many consider Johan Cruyff to be the most extraordinary mind in the history of our sport. As a player and manager, he had unprecedented success.
The legendary Dutchman is largely responsible for defining the modern game and has played an indispensable role in football history. Cruyff revolutionized and modernized the game with his unconventional approach and tactics. He was also the primary architect of Barcelona’s renowned La Masia academy, which produced Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta.
Cruyff was also instrumental in establishing Ajax as a European powerhouse. In 1996, their stadium was renamed Johan Cruijff Arena. Over the years, Ajax has been known to unearth some of the most talented players in European football.
As manager of Barcelona, the legendary manager won the European Champions Clubs Cup. With Ajax Amsterdam, he also won four La Liga titles and two Dutch Cups.
Johan Cruyff won the prestigious Ballon D’Or award three times during his playing career. He turned a mediocre Dutch team into one of the world’s football powerhouses. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics named him European Player of the Century in 1991.