As the year 2015 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at a great year of soccer. Today, 32 Flags is focusing on the top ten managers of 2015, from January all the way through December. That time period covers two different seasons. We’re not looking for the best managers of the first half of this year, we’re looking at the ten best managers for the entire calendar year in no particular order.
Before we get to the Top 10 of the year 2015, let’s take a look at some managers who didn’t make the cut.
Jose Mourinho – Chelsea (Premier League)
Before becoming the mess that has Chelsea in 15th place at Christmas and being unceremoniously ousted from the London club, he was the tactical genius that guided Chelsea to their fifth Premier League and League Cup titles in team history. One cannot ignore that Mourinho is a class manager and would be a welcome fit wherever he goes, but somehow his magic manages to disappear after his second year at a club and the “Special One” finds himself out of a job at Chelsea once again.
Nigel Pearson – Leicester City (Premier League)
Arguably pulled off the greatest escape out of any football team in history, Pearson saw Leicester in dead last place with 10 weeks left. Then in the most amazing string of results ever, his team won seven out of the last nine games to secure their place in the Premier League. Pearson was the talk of the footballing world and his management of the Foxes during trying times was certainly impressive. However, after Pearson’s son and some of the Leicester City players were involved in a racist sex tape scandal in a preseason tour in Thailand, the board decided “the working relationship between Nigel and the Board is no longer viable.”
Now on to the top 10 list:
10) Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti – Mexico National Team/ Tigres (Liga MX)
Ricardo Ferretti had an interesting year as he led Tigres to a disappointing exit from the 2015 Clausura championship after finishing first in the league and then losing to the lowest possible seed. It was then that he was tapped by the Mexican Football Federation to take over the reigns of the Mexican National Team for their matchup after Miguel Herrera was let go. “El Tuca” then rallied up the troops and managed El Tri to a 2017 Confederations Cup berth with an exhilarating win over the United States in extra time.
Keep in mind that as he managed the Mexican National Team, he also oversaw Tigres as they battled for playoff position in the 2015 Apertura season and looked to win the Copa Libertadores. Tigres battled hard, but eventually fell to Argentine giants River Plate making Tigres the third Mexican team to reach the Libertadores final and lose. His dedication to his Tigres team paid off in the end as he led the Monterrey team to the 2015 Liga MX Apertura championship over heavily favored Pumas. Overall, it was a year of victories for the Brazilian born manager.
9) Caleb Porter – Portland Timbers (MLS)
Caleb Porter, ever since his appointment as manager of the Portland Timbers in 2013, has consistently led the team to the brink of glory. Finally, in 2015, he managed the Timbers to their first ever MLS Cup, winning an exhilarating MLS Cup final over Columbus. After a rough start for Porter’s team, they eventually finished the season in fifth place overall. No one expected the Timbers to accomplish the things they did at the end of the regular season, and no one could have predicted that they would have even made it to the final.
However, Porter diligently led his team to playoff victories, which included an insane PK sequence against Sporting KC, a defensive domination of their Cascadia rivals Vancouver, and an offensive shootout against the conference leader FC Dallas. Through it all, Porter showed the soccer world what he is capable of, and his versatility as manager was one of the key components in Portland’s run to the championship.
8) Dieter Hecking – Wolfsburg (Bundesliga)
In a league where most everyone gets overshadowed by Bayern, it is sometimes hard to make yourself known. However, Dieter Hecking led Wolfsburg to one of their most successful seasons in 2015 and continues to do so going into 2016. Finishing second in the Bundesliga early in 2015 was no small feat for Die Wölfe, and that enabled them to participate in the Champions League for the first time since 2009-10. They also won the DFB-Pokal in 2015 beating the other German giants in Borussia Dortmund, adding to their domestic successes.
Right now, Wolfsburg managed to win a tough group in the Champions League to advance to the round-of-16 having beat out Manchester United and PSV. The downside is that the heavy schedule congestion and their focus on the Champions League has Wolfsburg in seventh place in the Bundesliga, but Hecking and his men will surely focus more on their domestic league as well.
7) Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City (Premier League)
Claudio Ranieri has only been at the helm of Leicester City for only half a year, after taking over Nigel Pearson after he was sacked in the preseason, but what he has accomplished is certainly reason to put him on this list. The team that just staved off relegation the year before were, by any stretch of the imagination, not title contenders, but Ranieri has them at the top of the table at Christmas. Above Arsenal, above both Mancunian teams, and above Spurs, Leicester City (as of now) reigns supreme.
Ranieri’s style of management has brought out the best of his club and the duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have been spectacular so far for the Foxes, as both are one and two in the league leading scorers department. Combined, they both have 28 goals and Vardy went on a span of 11 straight games with a goal, breaking the Premier League record by one. The question is: will Ranieri keep Leicester at the top? Or are they ripe for a fall from grace in 2016?
6) Laurent Blanc – Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1)
Another manager that has been greatly undervalued is Laurent Blanc of PSG. His team won the French treble with 2015 Ligue 1 title, Coupe de France, and Coupe de la Ligue as well as winning the Trophée des Champions. Blanc also led PSG to quarterfinals in Champions League and they fell to eventual champion Barcelona. Not to mention the amazing squad he has at PSG and the addition of Ángel Di María has been pure genius for the Parisian club.
With the stacked team Blanc has at his disposal, his team is sitting in first place of Ligue 1, and in impressive style as well, as they have gone undefeated with 16 wins and three draws by Christmas. Their next closest opponent sits 19 points away in second place and by this pace PSG will have the league title secure by February, which will leave them focusing on the Champions League as they have Chelsea to face in 2016.
5) Jill Ellis – United States Women’s National Team
The woman who led a team that inspired a nation. Jill Ellis’ 2015 started off great as she led the USWNT to a win in the Algarve Cup, a warm up to the big tournament in the summer. Then, Ellis managed to do what Pia Sundhage, Greg Ryan, and April Heinrichs failed to do over a span of a decade and a half, and that is to win a Women’s World Cup for the USWNT. Finally, after that memorable 1999 victory, the United States Women’s team became world champions once again after thrashing Japan in the final in Canada and established the U.S. as the world power in women’s soccer.
Ellis faced her share of criticism during the World Cup for her decisions, especially after her conservative management during the nil-nil draw against Sweden. However, through it all she stood firm by her decisions and managed a talented U.S. squad to tough wins over China and Germany, and eventually led the U.S. ladies to the ultimate prize.
4) Massimiliano Allegri – Juventus (Serie A)
One of the more overlooked managers in the world right now is Massimiliano Allegri from Juventus. A successful year for La Vecchio Signora, Allegri saw his team win the Serie A and Coppa Italia in 2015, finished as runner-up in the Champions League losing a hard fought battle against Barcelona, and after an abysmal start to the 2015-2016 season he found a way to inspire his men and now sit in sixth place.
Allegri has more than enough talent on his squad to make a title run possible and so far has managed to keep Paul Pogba in Turin (but for how long will be the question). Allegri definitely is one of the most accomplished coaches in the world and 2015 was no different for him as he leads Juventus into a promising 2016 year.
3) Arsène Wenger – Arsenal (Premier League)
It seems like every year Arsène Wenger is slowly building an Arsenal team that is progressively getting closer to winning that elusive Premier League title. This year, he managed to get Arsenal out of their usual fourth place finish and finished third in Premier League, won FA Cup for the second consecutive year, and as of right now has the Gunners in second place behind surprise Leicester City.
Wenger has had to endure many “#WengerOut” phases from the Gunner supporters over the years, but seems to have finally found the right mix to field a team that has what it takes to win a league title. Not to mention, he also managed to right a sinking ship in the Champions League and, by some miracle, found a way to take Arsenal to the round-of-16.
2) Pep Guardiola – Bayern München (Bundesliga)
It is hard not to put Pep Guardiola in a top 10 managers list. Even though 2015 was not Bayern’s most successful season, they still managed to win the 2014-15 Bundesliga crown and ended as semifinalists in Champions League after suffering the same fate as Laurent Blanc and lost to eventual champions Barcelona.
Guardiola even has his team sitting in first place at Christmas break, with only one loss out of 17 games and is looking forward to 2016 in the round-of-16 in the Champions League. Even with the talk of is impending departure from Bayern and the uncertainty of where he is to go after his tenure with the Bavarian giants ends, Guardiola has certainly cemented himself as one of the best managers in Bayern München history.
1) Luis Enrique – Barcelona (La Liga)
It would be easier to list the titles Luis Enrique and Barcelona haven’t won this year, instead of the one they have won. Luis Enrique can boast victories in the 2015 Champions League, having won La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup titles, it is certainly an impressive haul for the club from Catalonia.
Luis Enrique also has Barça in first place at the end of the year and they don’t look like they are going to go down anytime soon as the duo of Neymar and Luis Suarez have Barcelona looking like the favorites to repeat for all the titles listed above in the year above.