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Career Changes: Top 5 Players Turned Managers

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Zinedine Zidane with the Champions League
MILAN, ITALY – MAY 28: Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane shows the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Over the years, there have been many football players who carried on their career in management. It makes sense too, the knowledge and insight they have is invaluable when coaching and managing the next crop of players. 

However, it doesn’t always work out, as there have been numerous top players who have tried their hand at coaching and, well, they possibly wish they didn’t. There are some though that have flourished as managers. 

Zinedine Zidane

Probably one of the most successful managers that also had a ridiculously successful playing career, Zinedine Zidane is currently the manager of Real Madrid, and returning from football most certainly didn’t mean the success stopped. 

With an illustrious career that spanned 17 seasons, Zidane won everything he could have won, being the player who grabbed a win when his team needed it the most. His managerial career started a few years after retirement, when he took up the reigns at Real Madrid’s B team, Castilla. 

2 seasons later, Zizou was called up to replace Rafa Benitez. The success was quick, as he was the first manager to successfully defend the Champions League in the Champions League era. 

He left Madrid, but returned after a run of poor results, but Zizou is still in charge today, and hoping to make Madrid the Spanish and world giants they once were. 

Jupp Heynckes

Many forget that Heynckes was one of the most prolific strikers in Bundesliga history. He has two stints during the “Golden Era” of Borussia Monchengladbach, scoring over 200 goals in just over 300 appearances. 

He was also a member of the West Germany side during the 1974 World Cup, even though he was quite successful internationally, he spent most of the time on the bench, as Gerd Muller was just too good to not play. 

His managerial career is extensive, spanning almost 40 years, he coached Borussia, Bayern Munich, Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, and ending his managerial career back at Bayern Munich. 

As a manager he won the Champions League, Bundesliga, the Intertoto Cup, and the DFB Pokal. His playing career was incredible, and his managerial career saw the same levels of success year after year. 

Pep Guardiola 

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola spent almost all of the 18-year playing career playing for Barcelona. His success started when Barcelona B won the Segunda Division trophy, and serious success started once he reached the first team. 

He won La Liga multiple times, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de Espana, the European Cup, an Olympic gold medal, as well as being named Spain’s best player at the 1992 Olympic Games. 

His managerial career and success needs no introduction, winning the La Liga and Champions League with Barcelona, the Bundesliga multiple times with Bayern Munich, and the Premier League, FA Cup, and the EFL Cup with Manchester City. 

Individually, he has been named the La Liga Coach of the Year, the FIFA World Coach of the Year, Premier League Manager of the Season, and is in the Top 10 lists of many “Best Managers of All Time” lists. 

Vincente del Bosque 

Another manager who had an incredible playing career, but who’s managerial exploits severely overshadow their playing career. Vincente del Bosque spent almost all of his career at Real Madrid, making 445 appearances for the team. 

As a player, he won the La Liga and Copa del Rey multiple times, but his serious success was as a manager. He was the manager of Real Madrid multiple times, as well as Besiktas, and for a very long time, the Spain international team. 

As a manager, he won La Liga, the World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the Champions League, the Intercontinental Cup, and the UEFA European Championship. He was also named the FIFA World Coach of the Year, and and the World Football Manager of the Year in 2012. 

Johan Cruyff

Easily one of the best players of all time, Cruyff spent most of his playing career at Ajax and Barcelona. In 1999 he was named the best European player of the Century, and was named as the 2nd best player of the century behind Pele. 

He won the Ballon d’Or three times, and was named the best player of the year across multiple seasons and in multiple publications by different federations. As a manager, his success continued. 

He won the KNVB Cup twice with Ajax, as well as the UEFA Cup. With Barcelona, he won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup. 

These are only a few of the players that were not only incredibly successful on the pitch, but took their skill and talent and turned it into an incredibly successful managerial career. There are a few who may not have been the most exceptional players, but became exceptional managers. 

There are also some who are trying to prove their managerial might. Take Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, two players turned managers who saw tremendous success as players, but are now trying to make their mark as managers. 

We just have to wait and see who the next great player turned manager will be, but right now, there are a few that can most certainly do it.