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From Cult Hero to Gaffer | Players Who Became Managers at Their Beloved Clubs

In modern football it’s becoming more and more common to see former players return to their clubs as a coach or manager. The latest could see Didier Drogba return to Chelsea to work alongside interim manager Guus Hiddink. He’d follow in the footsteps of Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, who’s enjoying his second season as part of the coaching and management team.


However, it’s not always been a succesful transition. Here’s some of the best and worst stories of players who have turned their hands at management with their old clubs.

Ryan Giggs – Manchester United

The most decorated player in English history, retired from football after 22 dedicated seasons with Manchester United and was one of the greats from the ‘class of 92’ generation.

Giggs scored over 150 goals and made 963 appearances for United – more than any other in their history and enjoyed victory, claiming 34 trophies during his time at Old Trafford. 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies gives Giggs the right to respect and you’d like to think he knows a little about football so going into management seemed fitting.

The Welsh icon was thrust straight into the deep end when David Moyes’ sacking called for his services as a caretaker manager at the end of the 2014-15 season. He only sat in the dug-out as the main man for four games but has since been an integral part of the management team at Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal as his assistant.

His managerial career has yet to take off but many believe Giggs could be in line to take over the role at Manchester United in 2017.

Kenny Dalglish – Liverpool

‘King Kenny,’ as he’s so widely known amongst Liverpool fans, was one of the greatest players to ever grace Anfield. The number 7 shirt is famous amongt the Reds because it was entrusted to him for his career with Liverpool. During his playing days, he appeared over 500 times and scored 172 goals for the Merseysiders and has since gained even more respect amongst fans for his support of the Hillsborough families searching for justice.

Dalglish took over as player-manager during his first spell with the club in 1985 and didn’t hang up his boots until 1990, a year before resigning his position as manager in 1991. He led Liverpool to three league titles, two FA Cups and one League Cup before he’d even resigned as a player. He was also named Manager of the Year in 1986, 1988 and 1990 so it’s fair to say his first stint as Liverpool manager was a huge success.

The Scot returned to manage Liverpool for a second spell in January 2011 after Roy Hodgson’s unsuccesful stint but he failed to implement any changes and the club slid down the Premier League table. However, he did manage to get a trophy during his 18 month stay, claiming the League Cup in 2011-12.

Alan Shearer – Newcastle United

Newcastle’s striking hero, Alan Shearer enjoyed a highly succesful playing career which saw him win the Premier League in the 1994-5 season with Blackburn Rovers, become the highest ever goalscorer at Newcastle United and captain of England.

When Shearer moved to Newcastle, his £15m fee was a world record transfer and he re-paid the price tag by becoming their most succesful striker. His personal honours list was extensive but he failed to lift a trophy whilst wearing the black and white stripes.

However, when his old club found themselves in relegation peril in the 2008-9 season, Shearer stepped up as temporary manager of Newcastle United in an attempt to keep them in the top flight. It was a task that never looked possible and he was unable to prevent his former side from relegation. They did bounce back quickly though and returned to the Premier League a year later but Shearer has never dived into management since then.

Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid

One of the world’s greatest players of all time, Zinedine Zidane, retired in 2006 in infamous fashion after calling time on his career by headbutting Italian Marco Materazzi in the World Cup Final in Berlin and seeing red. Before that incident however, and even after, you could describe his career as a footballer as ‘perfection.’

The Real Madrid legend also played with Juventus, Girondins Bordeaux and Cannes AS during a career which saw him win 13 major trophies including the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Cup with France. He also won the La Liga title and the European Cup with Real Madrid in 2002 and 2003.

‘Zizou,’ as he’s known amongst fans and friends, was voted FIFA World Player of the Year on three occasions between 1998 and 2003, as well European Footballer of the Year in 1998. He admitted he never really wanted to rush into management however but after such an illustrious career, it’s easy to undertand why he wouldn’t want to tarnish such success.

Real Madrid’s sacking of Rafa Benitez was ruthless but naming Zidane as manager after the ex-player spent years enjoying his retirement and avoiding management, was more surprising. However, there were signs that Madrid always had the intention of exploiting Zidane’s genius.

In 2011, Zizou became Sporting Director of the Spanish giants and in 2013 he became the assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti. The summer of 2014 saw his become the coach of the club’s succesful B-team despite not actually having the coaching badges usually required for such a role. For somebody who’s avoided management for almost ten years, he’s taken on arguably the most wanted and most challenging job in football.

Pep Guardiola – Barcelona

Whereas Zidane made his name as a player in football, Pep Guardiola is now known worldwide for his managerial genius despite enjoying quite a succesful career as a player at Barcelona.

The Catalan, who is currently tipped to become the next manager of Manchester City, was part of Johan Cruyff’s dream team as a player and he won the European Cup with Barcelona in 1992. His coaching career started in 2007 when he took over the Barca B squad – leading them to promotion to the Spanish Second Division B after one year.

In the summer of 2008, former teammate and friend, Txiki Begiristain named Guardiola the new manager of Barcelona ahead of Jose Mourinho. The Spaniard would follow in the footsteps of Frank Rijkaard but his managerial stint with the Catalan club would become the most succesful spell in the club’s history. In over 200 matches at Barcelona, Pep led his team to 14 titles and guided a team which features Messi, Iniesta and Xavi to the treble in his first season in charge.

After four years with his former club, he moved to Germany to manage Bayern Munich where he’s enjoyed similar success. He’s now stated he’ll be leaving the Bundesliga at the end of the season and wants to manage in the Premier League.

Carlo Ancelotti – AC Milan

Carlo Ancelotti, who will take over from Pep Guardiola as the manager of Bayern Munich at the end of the season, is one of the biggest names in football management and like Pep, has made his name following his playing career.

The former AC Milan player returned to manage his Italian club in 2001 and enjoyed eight extremely succesful years in Serie A. He was named Coach of the Year whilst at AC Milan on two occasions, as well as guiding the club to 2 Champions League trophes, 1 Serie A title, 3 Super Cups, 1 Coppa Italia and the FIFA Club World Cup.

His time as manager of former club AC Milan, attracted the biggest clubs in world football and he went on to manage Real Madrid before being sacking in 2015. He will no doubt continue the good work Guardiola has produced at Bayern Munich in the 2016-17 season.

Steve Bruce – Birmingham City

Steve Bruce was a popular figure as a footballer and enjoyed a succesful playing career as a defender for Manchester United and England, amongst other clubs. After winning three league titles with United, he also enjoyed playing days at Birmingham City and it was here he returned to the Premier League as a manager after guiding them to promotion in the 2001-2 season.

Birmingham City continued to fight in the top flight before Bruce suffered his first set-back with the club – relegation in 2006. Bruce led them straight back up to the Premier League the year after however and enjoyed some more succesful months with the Blues before being appointed the manager of Wigan Athletic in November 2007.

Bruce went on to manage Hull City in 2012, guiding them to the Premier League and then avoiding relegation in their first season in the top flight. They won qualification to the Europa League too after becoming runners-up in the FA Cup during a memorable season.

Emma Sanders
Emma Sandershttp://Emma-sanders.blogspot.com
Currently studying Journalism at Media City UK, I specialise in Sports Journalism and news writing. My favourite sports include football, tennis, hockey and cricket. This is reflected in my writing.
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