Top football managers who never played in the top flight

rodgers liverpool

Jose Mourinho has been cited as something of an exception, a manager who barely played football, coming through Barcelona as a translator and going on to win the Champions League as a manager. Yet Mourinho did have a low-level football career in Portugal, dampening slightly the romanticism of that story. But what about other managers? And what about you if you’re not a footballer by the age of 30 – is there still hope? We decided to take a look at the top managers who never played professional football:

Brendan Rodgers

The Celtic manager was the next big thing when at his peak with Swansea in the Premier League, before earning a big move to Liverpool. Yet Rodgers only ever played non-league football, having retired from football at the age of 20 through a knee injury. Rodgers had been a youth coach at his last club Reading while travelling Spain for a coaching education, when he met Jose Mourinho, who subsequently gave him the Youth team job at Chelsea. His move to the big time came with promotion with Swansea in 2011.

Arrigo Sacchi

The former Milan and Italy manager started off life as a shoe salesman. Although already a big fan of football, his first job was with local side Baracca Lugo, at the tender age of 26! He went on to manager Bellaria before his big break as Youth Team coach of Serie B Cesena, before winning th title with Serie C1 Rimini. He would go on to win the Serie A and two European Cups with Milan, and finish runner up with Italy in the World Cup 1994. He famously told critics who lamented that he had never played football, “I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first”. Fancy Milan to win the Italian Super Cup against Juventus on Friday? Check out the last odds with

Zdeněk Zeman

Zeman has managed an astonishing 22 times through his long career, a number only slightly less surprising due to his career largely being in Italy. He graduated from a sports school in Palermo, before getting a coaching licence and becoming head coach of Licata, where he promptly won Serie C2. During his managerial growth, he won Serie B with Foggia in 1991 playing an attractive attacking style of football, and again with Pescara in 2012.


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