They say international management is an old man’s game, but some of the coaches at Euro 2020 are in their prime.
There are 24 managers at Euro 2020 and some have been in the job for nearly 15 years, while others haven’t even been around for 15 months.
But who is arguably the best of these elite coaches? Who comes in as the second-best tactician? We had a look at all the eligible candidates and produced a top 10 for managers at Euro 2020. Their overall coaching careers will be considered, as will any successes they have had with their respective nations.
10. Gareth Southgate
England – since 2016
Gareth Southgate has de-toxified and de-aged the Three Lions squad after their Euro 2016 humiliation, then took them all the way to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, and has even elevated them to the status of actual contenders. Whether or not he rises up this ranking will now depend on how much he is able to expand his own coaching skill to handle the pressure and lead England on to the greater glory they have been dreaming of.
9. Janne Andersson
Sweden – since 2016
The Swedes had not made a tournament quarter-final since 2004 and had been dumped out of three straight Euros at the group stages. Then they appointed Janne Andersson in 2016 and he instantly turned their fortunes around by making them intensely hard-working, hard to beat and effective on the break. They made the World Cup quarter-final in 2018 and after they shut Spain down, you wouldn’t bet against them doing the same at Euro 2020.
8. Zlatko Dalic
Croatia – since 2017
When Croatia made the World Cup final in 2018, it was an almost impossible feat of endurance and mental strength. After winning all three group games (including against Argentina), the Croats had been through two straight penalty shootout wins before beating England in extra time. They played 360 minutes of knockout football before the final and then still had the nerve to be the better side in Moscow, only to be simply overwhelmed by the French. So much praise went to Croatia’s star men but Dalic’s system that highlighted them and let Luka Modric dominate the way he did was just as important.
7. Andriy Shevchenko
Ukraine – since 2016
Shevchenko was one of the greatest players of all-time and a legend in Ukrainian football so it would have been easy to see his appointment as a bit of pandering. However, ‘Sheva’ has proven himself an intensely serious appointment. Oh, he took his time to get going for sure – but they finished top of their Euros qualification group (ahead of Portugal!) and gave us a stormingly entertaining game against the Dutch. His team simply do not know when they’re beaten, which is a fantastic quality to have.
6. Joachim Low
Germany – since 2006
Low is not only the longest-serving manager at Euro 2020, but he is the longest-serving manager of a European nation having been at the Germany helm for nearly 15 years. Such longevity at international level deserves to be recognised, and come the end of Euro 2020 he will bow out for Hansi Flick.
His recent form as national coach has left a lot to be desired, with Germany crashing out of the 2018 World Cup having finished dead last in Group F (below Sweden, Mexico and South Korea), before swallowing his pride and recalling those he initially culled in the immediate aftermath of that humiliation.
Still, this is Low we’re talking about after all, winner of the World Cup in 2014, and this summer will answer a big question: was 2018 a mere blip in an otherwise impressive career? Or has the German tactician genuinely lost his managerial mojo?
5. Roberto Martinez
Belgium – since 2016
The Catalan coach has been performing miracles ever since he took charge of Wigan in 2009. He worked his way up through the ranks, winning the FA Cup with the Latics and helping develop Romelu Lukaku at Everton along the way. As Belgium coach he has developed this talented squad into one of the very best in the world, using a distinct 3-4-2-1 formation to finish third in the 2018 World Cup and enter Euro 2020 as one of the favourites. Martinez’s teams can have defensive lapses but play with such an offensive assurance it doesn’t even matter. All they need is a trophy to validate their brilliance.
4. Roberto Mancini
Italy – since 2018
Roberto Mancini won three straight Scudetti with Inter then came to England and was the man in charge as Manchester City established themselves as an elite force in English football. It was his unification of that initial squad of big-money imports, rallying the team around Yaya Touré’s genius, that saw City win the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League in 2012. He struggled a bit after City, for sure, but has once again found himself to be the right man in the right place at the right time with Italy.
Mancini’s intense approach has benefited the Azzurri who came into Euro 2020 unbeaten in their last 27 games under their new coach (they lost twice in Mancini’s first five games and have been flawless since). They had even won their last eight games without conceding a single goal. Well, after their opening-day win against Turkey, that triumph over Switzerland, and a recent victory over Wales, that is now a national record 20 games unbeaten, and 11 straight clean-sheet wins. Italy are serious business thanks to Roberto Mancini!
3. Fernando Santos
Portugal – since 2014
Fernando Santos is not an exciting coach but he is adaptable and intelligent. When Portugal scraped through to the knockout rounds of Euro 2016 with just three points having shipped an avalanche of goals, he switched up his XI, played a much more defensive style, and his side then ground their way to the final which they quite incredibly won against hosts France.
Santos is a wily customer and Portugal were only undone at the World Cup by Uruguay and Oscar Tabarez, who is even older and wilier than him. Well, there’s no Tabarez at Euro 2020 and Portugal are a squad loaded with attacking talent. No manager has ever retained the Euros but you’d be brave to bet against Fernando Santos at Euro 2020.
2. Luis Enrique
Spain – since 2018
Luis Enrique’s achievements with Spain are not extensive, but he’s taken a squad that is very shy on offensive talent and despite not being a possession-enthusiast, turned them back into the kind of endlessly pressing ball-owning monsters they were at their peak.
That alone is a phenomenal achievement, but when you add it to the fact that he has won a treble with Barcelona, you really can’t deny the quality of the manager, even if you find him a bit brusque. He is pure quality and if Spain had a striker even two-thirds as good as David Villa, there’s no doubt ‘Lucho’ would lead them to Euros glory.
1. Didier Deschamps
France – since 2012
In 2015, Didier Deschamps exiled Karim Benzema from the French squad as he looked to build a younger, more unified squad. That worked and France made the final of Euro 2016 and really should have won, but their players lost their nerve and Portugal stole the trophy.
Undaunted, Deschamps persisted and France won the 2018 World Cup in dominant fashion. They weren’t exciting, but they were brilliant. Deschamps maximised the talent of seemingly every player in the team.
Now in 2020 he has France looking imperious yet again with a squad oozing talent. He’s so in control that he is even comfortable recalling Benzema into the team. His authority is such that even the maverick Real Madrid striker will fall into line.
France are so stacked, so disciplined and so organised that the only thing that is going to stop them is themselves. As long as Deschamps can keep a lid on any squad strife (and although there’s thought to have been a bit of beef, it seems to be under control right now) then his system and his stars should see Les Bleus right the wrongs of 2016 and add the European title to their World one. The top dog running the top team.