Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Patrick Vieira are now Premier League managers but which top-flight boss was the best as Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal heroes battle in the dugout
The Premier League is the most competitive division in football and the immense quality of managers is a big reason for that.
Genius tacticians are littered across all clubs in the English top-flight, and it’s no surprise some of the biggest talents in Europe were attracted to England during the January transfer window.
Pep Guardiola, who is arguably the world’s greatest active manager, has been a phenomenon in England, steering Man City to three league titles and several other trophies during his six years at the helm.
But the brilliant tactical minds of Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte are also bringing world-class managerial pedigree to the division to rival the Spaniard.
Meanwhile, some true greats of the Premier League are at the beginning of their careers in coaching, with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Patrick Vieira all now plying their trade in the division’s dugouts.
They aren’t alone either, as practically every current top flight boss experienced life as a player before taking the step up to coaching.
And talkSPORT.com has decided it was only right to rank them by what they achieved in their playing careers…
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20 . Thomas Frank (Brentford)
The Brentford boss won’t mind placing so far down on this list, given he never had a professional football career.
After a brief spell in the amateur game as a midfielder, the Dane soon realised his calling was coaching, rather than playing.
By his mid-twenties, Frank had already committed himself to the world of management. And it’s going pretty well for him.
19. Bruno Lage (Wolves)
The Wolves boss is another manager who earned his reputation in the dugout, not on the pitch.
His short career as a right-winger, playing in the lower leagues of Brazil and Portugal, is barely worth a mention.
However, by starting early as a coach at the age of 22, Lage – now 45 – got a head start on the rest and already has a league title to his name with Benfica.
18. Brendan Rodgers (Leicester)
While some choose between management and playing, the decision was forced upon Rodgers.
A genetic knee problem ended what was a promising career as a defender at Reading when he was just 20.
Undeterred, he turned to coaching with the Royals, travelling to Spain to study and playing a bit of non-league football in the meantime.
A certain Jose Mourinho asked him to join Chelsea as a youth manager in 2004 – and the rest is history.
17. Ralf Rangnick (Manchester United)
Rangnick has coached some of the top clubs around Europe, but his playing career was rather uneventful.
He played as a midfielder for amateur side VfB Stuttgart II in the late 1970s, while also attending university. Rangnick spent a year studying PE and English at the University of Brighton, joining Southwick FC during his time in England before returning to Germany.
He played in the highest amateur division with VfR Heilbronn before one year at SSV Ulm 1846. Rangnick then began as a player-coach with Viktoria Backnang in 1983, paving the way to be a top coach in the game.
16. Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)
Tuchel began his career by signing for his local team TSV Krumbach at the age of six, where he was coached by his own father Rudolf.
Despite getting a move to Augsburg when he was 15 and playing for Germany’s Under-18s, the defender never made the cut and was released at 19.
Tuchel made his first senior appearances after signing for second-division side Stuttgarter Kickers, but only played a few times for the team before being dropped and moving to third-tier SSV Ulm.
It was there where his career was sadly cut short as he was forced to retire at age 24 due to a persistent knee cartilage injury.
15. Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)
Bielsa’s career started out at Newell’s Old Boys, where he rose through the youth academy and was called up for Argentina’s Under-20s.
He made a few fleeting appearances as a defender for Newell’s in Argentina’s top flight, but then dropped down the levels as he played for Instituto on loan and ended up becoming a striker at fourth-tier Argentino de Rosario.
Remarkably, at age 25, Bielsa retired from playing and cut his own career short.
This was partly due to a knee injury, but also a decision he made to focus on coaching while his passion for playing dwindled. This choice, which would have no doubt been difficult at the time, has ultimately proved a wise one.
13. Roy Hodgson (Watford)
The veteran boss came through the Crystal Palace academy as a youngster, a side he would eventually manage, but he unfortunately never made it through to the first team.
As well as gaining his full coaching badges at the age of 23, Hodgson had spells with Tonbridge, Gravesend and Northfleet and then Ashford Town before finishing his career at Carshalton Athletic
Before calling time on his career, the Watford boss also played for Berea Park in Pretoria, South Africa.
14. Graham Potter (Brighton)
Potter was a left-back who started his career with Birmingham and went on to play nearly 400 times for 11 different clubs.
He played eight times in the Premier League for Southampton, and made many First Division (now Championship) appearances with the Blues, Stokes and West Brom.
Potter played most of his games for York City in the old Third Division, before ending his career with Macclesfield in 2005.
12. Eddie Howe (Newcastle)
Injuries curtailed what could have been a bright career for Howe, which started way back in 1995 against Hull City for Bournemouth.
In 1998, the defender was part of the England Under-21 side which took part in the Toulon Tournament and earned himself a £400,000 move to play for Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth.
However, a knee injury on his debut would effectively ruin his career and he returned to Bournemouth after two injury-ravaged seasons, where he eventually hung up his boots and cemented his status as a club legend.
11. David Moyes (West Ham)
The former centre-back started his youth career with Icelandic club IBV, before three seasons at Celtic led him to England.
Cambridge United, Bristol City and Shrewsbury Town all benefited from the Scot’s services at the back and he then returned to his home country to play in the 1991 Scottish Cup Final for Dunfermline Athletic.
Moyes would finish his career at Preston North End where he played alongside a certain David Beckham, on loan from Manchester United.
10. Dean Smith (Norwich)
The Canaries boss had a long stint as a player but never quite reached the top level of English football.
He made 100-plus appearances for several lower league teams, including Walsall, Hereford United and Leyton Orient, and it’s no surprise he’s now thriving in management.
9. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Funnily enough, Liverpool’s iconic 6ft 2in manager started his career as a striker before coaches realised how effective he was in the air, so chucked him down at the other end of the pitch.
Klopp spent the majority of his playing career at Mainz, where he retired and later went onto manage in the same year, incredibly.
8. Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)
The Saints boss often says he wasn’t the most talented footballer, but he still had an extremely respectable career in his home country, Belgium and Germany.
His greatest success came when he hit a highly-commendable 56 goals in 172 appearances in five years at Austria Vienna from 1989, where he won three Austrian Bundesliga titles in that time.
7. Sean Dyche (Burnley)
It’s no surprise that the current Clarets boss was a hard-hitting defender.
Dyche was a rock at the back and became a cult figure at Chesterfield, captaining the Spireites to the FA Cup semi-final in 1997.
He also had spells with Nottingham Forest, Millwall, Watford and other clubs before making his way into management.
6. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
The Spaniard perhaps enjoyed his best days at Everton, but that does nothing to take away from the brilliant, and often underappreciated, career he had.
He was brilliantly consistent in his years at Goodison Park and backed up his displays in a more defensive role with Arsenal, where he became club captain under Arsene Wenger.
5. Antonio Conte (Tottenham)
The Italian is one of the greatest tactical minds in world football, but many forget he was a brilliant player in his day, too.
A tenacious midfielder, Conte joined Juventus in 1991 and went on to spend 13 years for the Italian powerhouse, winning several trophies in Turin, including the UEFA Cup, the Champions League and multiple Serie A titles.
4. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
The Spaniard was a holding midfielder and an extremely good one at that.
Technically outstanding in the middle of the park, Guardiola found himself flourish under Johan Cruyff, who inspired him to be the coach he is today.
With Cruyff, he helped deliver Barcelona’s first-ever European Cup as well as winning LaLiga an four years on the bounce at Camp Nou.
He went on to have brilliant success under Louis van Gaal, too, where he went on to win a Copa del Rey as well as two more Liga titles and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup.
3. Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)
An icon of the game both at club level and internationally, Vieira epitomised Arsenal’s brilliance under Arsene Wenger during the Gunners’ most successful Premier League period.
He captained his side to three Premier League titles, the last of which they did not lose a single match.
The Frenchman’s name will forever be etched in history for leading Arsenal to the golden ‘Invicibles’ Premier League trophy.
Playing a leading role for France at Les Blues’ triumphs at 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 doesn’t hurt his cause either.
2. Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa)
One of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Gerrard was a true leader on the pitch who embodied Liverpool Football Club during his 17 years at Anfield.
He single-handedly steered the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005 when he galvanised the Reds to one of the most famous comeback victories over AC Milan in Istanbul.
He was so good that even Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t hide his admiration for the Liverpool captain, insisting he was the most ‘influential’ player in the country.
“If you were looking for the player you would replace [Roy] Keane with, it’s Gerrard, without question,” Fergie previously said. “He has become the most influential player in England, bar none.
“Not that Vieira lacks anything, but I think that Gerrard does more for his team than Vieira does.”
Unfortunately for Gerrard, the lack of a Premier League title sees him pipped to the crown in this list…
1. Frank Lampard (Everton)
Liverpool and Arsenal fans might not be too happy about it, but Lampard gets the nod in top spot because of the sheer amount of silverware he amassed during his glittering career.
The midfielder won three Premier League titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League in 13 glorious years at Chelsea.
He also lays claim to being the fifth top scorer in Premier League history, a quite extraordinary feat for a midfielder.
He achieved this by some way too, with Gerrard the next midfielder on the list with 57 goals less than his former England teammate.
Lampard now has the task of trying to replicate his career in management at Everton following his return to the dugout after a year out.
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