15 Best Football Player-Managers of All Time

Who is the greatest player-manager in the history of football?

Playing in a football club and at the same time coaching it is not an easy task, especially in the highly competitive European football competitions. Indeed, it requires a lot of skills and experiences to work as a player-manager. Considering the high difficulty level of this job, it is not a surprising fact to know that there are only few successful player-managers in the history of football.

In this article, I want to discuss 15 names whom I consider the best in carrying out the duty of being a player and a manager of a football club at the same time. Among them, there are a few names who managed to achieve grand success, such as Graeme Souness, Gianluca Vialli, and Kenny Dalglish. In your opinion, who is the best player-manager of all time? Be sure to vote for your favorite in the poll section!

15. Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce underwent a career as a player-manager in the 1998-1999 period with Sheffield United. Bruce who played as a central defender helped his club finish in eighth place at the end of the season. His career as a player-coach was not bad, but his relationship with the club boards and managements were not harmonious. During his time as player-manager, Bruce often complained about the lack of funds allocated to purchase new players and heavily criticized the boards regarding this matter.

14. Trevor Francis

Not only with one club, Trevor Francis underwent a career as a player-manager at two different clubs, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday. During his time as a player-manager, Francis who played as a striker scored 17 goals in 108 appearances. Not only that, he also successfully led Sheffield Wednesday win the League Cup in 1991 and took the club to gain promotion to the Division One.

13. Alan Curbishley

Alan Curbishley started his career as a player-manager at Charlton Athletic in 1991. At that time, he shared the role with another player, Steve Gritt. After officially retiring as a professional footballer, Curbishley continued his career as manager of Charlton Athletic and maintain it for almost 15 years. Curbishley's best achievement as a manager is guiding Charlton's to the Premier League promotion in the 1997-98 season.

12. Dennis Wise

Dennis Wise who is regarded as one of the best all-time Chelsea midfielders had a career as a player-manager in the 2003-2005 period with a first division club, Milwall. Wise, who still actively played as a defensive midfielder at that time, made a great achievement by leading Milwall advance to the final round of the FA Cup in 2004. During his three-year career at Milwall, Wise played in 85 matches and netted seven goals.

11. Paul Ince

Paul Ince started his career as a player-manager with a small English Division Two club, Macclesfield Town in 2006. At the moment he took the job, Macclesfield Town was in the relegation zone, with seven points differences from their nearest rivals. Apparently, Ince managed to carry out his duties as a player-manager very well. He helped his club win several important games, and at the end of the season they managed to avoid relegation.

10. Bryan Robson

Bryan Robson is a legendary Manchester United midfielder. He underwent a career as a player-manager at Middlesbrough in the period 1994-1996. At first, his role was only as an assistant manager of Terry Venables. Unexpectedly, Venables resigned from Middlesbrough to be an England national team coach, then Robson was promoted to serve a role as a manager while retaining his status as a player. His career at Middlesbrough was fairly mediocre, where he helped the club finish the season in mid-table place.

9. Glenn Hoddle

Glenn Hoddle worked as a player-manager in two different clubs, Swindon Town and Chelsea in the 1991-1996 period. He recorded a brilliant achievement when successfully helped Swindon gain promotion to Division One of English League in 1993 and he even scored one goal in the play-off match against Leicester City. He moved to Chelsea the following season, once again taking on the role as player-manager. At the Blues, he guided Chelsea to an FA Cup final rounds in 1994 before officially retiring as a professional footballer in 1995.

8. Gordon Strachan

Strachan is a Scottish midfielder who won a title as the best player of the Premier League in the 1990-91 season when he joined Leeds United. He underwent a one-year career as a player-manager at Coventry City in the 1996-97 season. At that time he did not fully work as a player-manager, but acted as an assistant of Ron Atkinson. However, he greatly influenced Atkinson's both tactically and managerially. In that period, Strachan played a major role in helping Coventry avoid relegation and signed some key players of the club such as Gary McAllister and Eoin Jess.

7. John Toshack

After successfully winning numerous trophies with Liverpool, Toshack moved to Swansea City in 1978 to pursue a career as a player-manager. At that time, Swansea City were still in the Division Four of English League. Toshack worked as a player-manager for five years, and in his first four years he managed to help Swansea gain promotion to Division One, the highest hierarchy of English football competition at that time. More surprisingly, Toshack first season in Division One went very well, in which Swansea several times topped the league table and ended the season in sixth place.

6. Peter Reid

Peter Reid played as a defensive midfielder when he worked as a player-manager of Manchester City in the 1990-1993 period. At that time, he replaced Howard Kendall who departed to Everton. His career as a player-manager was quite successful, where he successfully helped Manchester City finish in fifth place in his first two seasons. He also made some important transfer decisions, including signing Terry Phelan and selling the club's mainstay defender, Colin Hendry.

5. Osvaldo Ardiles

Osvaldo Ardiles is a retired Argentinian central midfielder who helped his country win the 1978 World Cup. His career as a player-manager started in 1989 with an English League Division Two club, Swindon Town. In his first year in the club, he massively transformed Swindon Town's playing style. Ardiles changed the club's style of play that relied on long passes into a Latin-American playing style that gave more importance in short passing and dribbling. The result was remarkable, where he directly managed to help Swindon Town win a promotion to the Division One of English League in his first year working as a player-manager. Unfortunately, the promotion of Swindon Town was canceled because of financial crisis. Due to the unstable financial condition of the club, Ardiles finally decided to move to Newcastle United in 1991 and worked as a full-time manager.

4. Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit worked as a player-manager at Chelsea for two seasons, in the period of 1996-1998. He took over the position from Glenn Hoddle, who was appointed as England national team coach. His first season as a player-manager went successfully, where he aided Chelsea win the UEFA Cup in 1997. Although he carried out his duty well, Gullit was controversially sacked by Ken Bates (Chelsea's president at that time) in 1998. He was replaced by his favorite player during his regime as a player-manager at Chelsea, Gianluca Vialli.

3. Gianluca Vialli

Gianluca Vialli is a former Italian striker who worked as a player-manager of Chelsea in the 1998-1999 season. He replaced the role of Ruud Gullit who was fired in the middle of the season. Vialli had a triumphant career in his first season as a player-manager, where he helped Chelsea win the League Cup and Winners' Cup. His success made Vialli made a record as the youngest manager ever to win a UEFA competition (at the age of 33 years old), before it was broken by Andre Villas-Boas in 2011. During his brief career as a player-manager, Vialli scored 10 goals in 18 appearances.

2. Graeme Souness

Souness was a Scottish midfielder who had successful career at Liverpool in the early 1980s. He underwent a career as a player-manager of Glasgow Rangers for five years, in the 1986-1991 period. At that time, Souness was recruited by Rangers' managements to break the dominance of Glasgow Celtic and the emergence of Aberdeen and Dundee United as the new strengths in the Scottish League. The strategy that was used during his period at Rangers was called as "Souness Revolution" and it was carried on by recruiting top players from English League such as Terry Butcher and Chris Woods. His career as a player-manager went successfully, in which Souness claimed three Scottish Premier League titles and four Scottish Cups.

1. Kenny Dalglish

Indeed, the title of the best player-manager of all time should be awarded to Kenny Dalglish. He successfully acted as a player and a coach of Liverpool in the 1985-1990 period. Not just giving instructions from the sidelines, Dalglish still played regularly and netted a lot of important goals for his club. During his five-year career as a player-manager, he won three Premier League titles, two FA Cup trophies, and one League Cup trophy.

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