Antonio Conte's return shows Premier League have the best managers

Antonio Conte’s return with Tottenham means he will fight it out with fellow greats Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola… but who really is the best of the best bosses?

  • The Premier League is proven as the hub of elite-level managers at this moment
  • Antonio Conte’s arrival only adds to the A-List stable of world-class coaches
  • Thomas Tuchel is thriving at Chelsea while Jurgen Klopp transformed Liverpool
  • Pep Guardiola has maintained his high standards and the competition is fierce 

If football managers were boiled down to a game of Top Trumps, the Premier League’s hand would win every time.

Sure, Germany can boast one of the most talked-up young managers in Julian Nagelsmann, Spain can put forward Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti, while Italy has Jose Mourinho and Massimiliano Allegri as their box-office names.

But what Antonio Conte’s return to English football has reinforced is that the Premier League has the best in the business.  

Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are considered three of the finest managers in world football – and they have the trophies to back that up. 

Pep Guardiola (left) and Thomas Tuchel (right) are among the elite bosses working in England


Jurgen Klopp (right) is another and Antonio Conte’s (left) return makes them a fierce quartet

Even outside of the traditional Big Six – with Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer omitted due to lack of major trophies to their name – the Premier League has veteran bosses such as Rafa Benitez, Marcelo Bielsa and Claudio Ranieri, all of which have reached major European finals or won a league title. 

But circling back to the trio which Conte will turn into a quartet, and the pressure is as lofty as the pay packets. 

Tuchel came in with Chelsea spiralling and he guided them to a Champions League title. Klopp transformed Liverpool into title winners, adding a Champions League on the way, and Guardiola has broken new ground with his Manchester City teams.

The question is, how do they stack up against each other? What are their coaching philosophies? How do their CVs look under the spotlight? Sportsmail answers all…  

TROPHY CABINET 

Borussia Dortmund

DFB-Pokal: 2016–17

Paris Saint-Germain

Ligue 1 title: 2018–19, 2019–2020

French Cup: 2019–20

French League Cup: 2019–20

French Super Cup: 2018, 2019 

Chelsea

UEFA Champions League: 2020–21

UEFA Super Cup: 2021 

THOMAS TUCHEL

Club: Chelsea 

It is difficult for managers to get the respect they deserve when they are in a league, such as in France, where one team has dominated for so long.  

Tuchel lifted, as expected, three Ligue 1 titles, and did the domestic treble in 2019-20.

But having come within a whisker the year before with Paris Saint-Germain, guiding Chelsea to a Champions League title really put him in the group of the game’s greats.

Chelsea were flailing under club legend Frank Lampard and joining on an 18-month contract – as Conte has at Tottenham – suggested it was a marriage of convenience given Tuchel was out of work. 

His success at Chelsea saw him crowned German Football Manager of the Year for 2021 as well as UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year. 

The best, quite literally, in the business across European football.  

Often finding himself with the underdog during his time in Germany with Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund, more can be gleaned from Tuchel’s head-to-head against his managerial rivals since arriving at Chelsea.

Take his record against Guardiola. In only one of the pair’s last five meetings have City won – a 1-0 at Stamford Bridge which drew plenty of plaudits. Chelsea and Tuchel found themselves totally blunted with 40 per cent possession and no shots on target. 

Tuchel elevated his reputation by guiding Chelsea to Champions League glory last season

Then there is Klopp, who he has faced 16 times, and Liverpool. 

In the Reds’ two games against Tuchel’s Chelsea they have lost one and drawn the other. 

Tuchel’s style is perhaps best described as a Guardiola-Klopp hybrid, with a bit of Conte thrown in.

https://sportstons.com/soccer/solskjaer-is-a-poundshop-mourinho-stats-prove-hes-not-playing-man-utd-way/

Like Conte, Tuchel has found himself wedded to a three-man defence – and it has worked to devastating effect so far in west London. 

‘Gegenpress’, something Liverpool have made second nature under Klopp, is a key part of a Tuchel side’s DNA but what has typically hurt the German is his ‘perfectionism’, most certainly a Guardiola trait.

Things soured at Dortmund and PSG were keen to move on from him at the end. It could be argued that he has everything he possibly needs at Chelsea – amazing players, ample resources, ability to compete for every trophy, and so he will hope he has now found a home.  

The German is one of the smartest tacticians in the game and has shown that with Chelsea

TROPHY CABINET 

Borussia Dortmund

Bundesliga title: 2010–11, 2011–12

DFB-Pokal: 2011–12

German Super Cup: 2013, 2014 

Liverpool

Premier League title: 2019–20

UEFA Champions League: 2018–19 

UEFA Super Cup: 2019

FIFA Club World Cup: 2019

JURGEN KLOPP

Club: Liverpool 

Tuchel winning his first German Football Manager of the Year award last season was the start of him making inroads on three-time winner Klopp (2011, 2012, 2019).

The toothy-grinned German has often been characterised as producing ‘heavy-metal’ football. 

Once asked the differences between his teams and those Arsenal ones of Arsene Wenger, Klopp said: ‘He likes having the ball, playing football, passes. 

‘It’s like an orchestra. But it’s a silent song. I like heavy metal more. I always want it loud.’ 

As thrilling as Liverpool continue to be, Klopp is continuing to evolve and refine as Liverpool go in search of another title.

Of all four on this list it is Klopp who comes across as the most charismatic, the most extroverted, and in the German Liverpool have themselves a manager with a crystal-clear identity. 

He arrived in 2015 with what he then described as a ‘very emotional, very fast, and very strong’ blueprint to deliver success.

Any players working for Klopp need to play at ‘full throttle’ and it is clear that he has elevated a number of players to the elite level. 

Roberto Firmino has transformed the false nine position, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have become Ballon d’Or contenders and Virgil van Dijk elevated to become one of the best defenders in the world.  

It started slowly with some bitter disappointments but once the wheels got turning Klopp struck fear into his rivals. 

Klopp delivered Champions League glory before adding a Premier League title a season later

Take Guardiola, the boss he has come up against most in his career – in the Liverpool-City matches, the Reds have gone unbeaten in nine of the 14 matches. 

Victories home and away over City in the 2017-18 Champions League quarter-finals proved a masterstroke. Guardiola was out-thought on both occasions and Klopp took them to the final, before winning it a year later. 

Tuchel has appeared to have Klopp’s number of late and it is also interesting to see Klopp’s struggles against Antonio Conte teams. 

From four match-ups against the crafty Italian, Klopp has prevailed just once, with two draws and a Chelsea win in their last meeting.  

In the discussion around the best manager in the Premier League, Klopp’s credentials speak for themselves – twice crowned The Best FIFA Men’s Coach – in 2019 and 2020 – and the 2019-20 Premier League Manager of the Season.

Wracked by injuries to key players last season, Klopp helped ensure Liverpool remained with Champions League football.

Now with his stars back, Salah in the form of his life and the competition ramped up, just as he likes it, the German is right there in contention for the top honours again. 

His ‘heavy-metal’ football blew English football away and he is continuing to fine tune his team

TROPHY CABINET 

Barcelona

LaLiga title: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11

Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12

Spanish Super Cup: 2009, 2010, 2011

UEFA Champions League: 2008–09, 2010–11

UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011

FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011

Bayern Munich

Bundesliga title: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16

DFB-Pokal: 2013–14, 2015–16

UEFA Super Cup: 2013

FIFA Club World Cup: 2013

Manchester City

Premier League title: 2017–18, 2018–19, 2020–21

FA Cup: 2018–19

EFL Cup: 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21 

Community Shield: 2018, 2019  

PEP GUARDIOLA

Club: Manchester City 

If fans were polled for the best manager in the Premier League it may well be that Guardiola comes out top of the pile.

A revolutionary coach who has put together some of the best teams English football has seen in recent decades, Guardiola is always showered in plaudits.

A three-time Premier League Manager of the Season – 2017–18, 2018–19 and 2020–21 – the Catalan has a resume that speaks for itself with 10 trophies alone during his time in Manchester. 

One of the criticisms of Guardiola, particularly in one-off European games, is that he can out-think himself, often guilty of over-complicating tactics for a team that has been such a dominant force domestically. 

Guardiola has proven his quality in Spain, Germany and now England, but a Champions League title has been missing since his days at Barcelona and it is the final piece of his puzzle at City. 

One of the greatest compliments to be paid to Guardiola is that he truly is a transformational leader. 

Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary showed how relentless he is in pursuit of victory, and not just victory but victory by playing beautiful football.

All four on this list have incredibly high standards but it is not uncommon to see Guardiola berating one of his players after a good or great performance. Constantly he is striving for more.

While Guardiola does not own the concept of playing out from the back, his success in the days, months and years to come since Ederson arrived saw every manager in the division, more or less, look to replicate the sweeper-keeper. 

He knew he needed to change too, having at first appeared somewhat shellshocked with the speed and vigour of English football. What followed was near total domination. 

Guardiola has revolutionised English football since arriving in Manchester from Bayern Munich

In that way he has revolutionised the possession game in England and his imprint on the Premier League is clear.  

‘Only once in his career has Pep made a mistake – in his first year at ­Manchester City when he completely ­underestimated the power and speed of the Premier League,’ Ajax boss Erik ten Hag once said.

‘He realised that you can’t play the kind of football he loves without ­having a couple of physically strong athletes – and so he brought them in. So he’s not a stubborn coach.

‘Yes, he is stubborn in his ­philosophy, but not in the ­execution. And that makes him the best.’

Guardiola’s latest rabbit from the hat is trying to win a league title without a prolific centre forward. 

For so long the running joke with the City boss has been his dream to have 11 midfield players on the pitch at once, but missing out on Harry Kane felt significant. And yet with 10 games gone City are third, just two adrift of Liverpool and five adrift of Chelsea, who they beat.

It remains very much game on.  

The accusation levelled against Guardiola is that he can be guilty of overthinking his approach

TROPHY CABINET 

Bari

Serie B title: 2008–09

Juventus

Serie A title: 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14

Italian Super Cup: 2012, 2013

Chelsea

Premier League title: 2016–17

FA Cup: 2017–18

Inter Milan

Serie A title: 2020–21

ANTONIO CONTE 

Club: Tottenham 

‘My coaching philosophy is very simple – to play good football and attractive football for our fans with passion,’ Conte explained on Wednesday. 

‘To have a stable team – not up and down.

‘I think the fans deserve to have a team that are competitive with a will to fight. I will do everything to deserve their support.’  

There is a feeling that upon hiring Conte a club triggers off a ticking time-bomb which could explode at any minute. 

But while there is peace and harmony the results can prove incredibly effective – and entertaining. 

The Premier League Manager of the Season in 2016–17, after he managed to clear the mess left by Jose Mourinho the previous season, Conte is viewed as a serial winner that immediately gets more out of players than his predecessor.

In the intensity stakes it is tricky to call but there is an argument that Conte is the most intense of them all. 

This is a man that would run through oncoming traffic for players that he has complete belief in – but he expects the same level of fearlessness in return or there is trouble. 

One of the main criticisms levelled at Nuno Espirito Santo, who Conte takes over from, was the style of football he had employed, or rather the lack of one.

There was no clear identity under Nuno but Conte at the helm that will be no problem. 

Conte produced a remarkable turnaround of Chelsea’s fortunes to win the league title

The Italian is steadfast in his approach to the game and results at both Chelsea and Inter Milan show he knows what he is talking about. 

It will be a meeting of minds when he faces Tuchel’s Chelsea and the war of the back threes takes centre stage.

A 3-4-3 system served Conte so well at Chelsea while a 3-5-2 worked brilliantly at Inter Milan.

Some of his former players, Eden Hazard chief among them, have spoken critically of the Italian’s tiresome demands on the training pitch but the fact he is so focused on the drills that he will space cones out to the centimetre himself shows the level of detail to which Conte will go into.

Even Mourinho, who despises Conte, described him as a ‘very good coach’ and there is a feeling that give him the time and resources at Tottenham, keep hold of, and get a tune out of, Harry Kane, then don’t be surprised if success follows.  

 Now taking over at Tottenham, he has a clear identity and has brilliant man-management skills




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