Football is a beautiful game. It has always been. And that, more than anything else, has been responsible for the explosion in its growth and world-wide acceptance.
The round leather game remains the king of all sports in most parts of the world. It’s a complex sport no doubt, and there is a lot that go into managing the game at all levels. While the actual play on the pitch lasts 90 to 120 minutes, a lot goes on behind the scenes.
These activities, which go on 24/7 include scouting, pitch management, training, financial affairs to mention just a few. But in the end everything revolves around the action on the pitch. That is where the key actors in the game, players and even managers excel. Yet, it is not all of them.
Different managers have made their mark in the game in different eras. However, in recent times a few have stood out from the pack. We are currently blessed with three of those in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
The German tactician wrote his name in football history at Borussia Dortmund. In an age where Bayern Munich have a stranglehold on the Bundesliga, the 51-year-old led Die Borussen to a back-to-back league title win in 2011 and 2012. He also did a league and cup double in 2012.
He then led the side to success in Europe and reached the 2013 Champions League final only to lose their arch rivals, Bayern. But despite the loss, he had demonstrated that he could play beautiful football and win trophies.
Klopp decided to take a break from the game a couple of years later. Then Liverpool came calling in 2015 and he moved to England. He took over the Reds at a time they needed inspiration and a rebuilding job. The club lost some key players like Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively while some squad members were underperforming.
After two years of reshaping the squad and drilling his tactics into the players, the Merseysiders were transformed. The 2017/18 season has so far been the most successful and was marked by a distinct high-octane gegenpressing style of play.
The team now possesses top-class players in every position and one of the most fearsome attacks on the continent. Goals in double digits from each of the front three men; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino helped the team reach the Champions League final last term.
Perhaps, the best game that showcased Klopp’s style was was against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The Sky Blues who had not lost a single game all season before visiting Anfield were put to the sword in a dramatic fashion. Liverpool went on to defeat the eventual league champions back-to-back in three successive matches proving the victory was no fluke.
And for those who thought that was the best he could muster, the former Mainz manager has made the Kop title contenders this season. Liverpool remains arguably the biggest challengers to Man City for the Premier League crown this season.
Maurizio Sarri – Chelsea
Maurizio Sarri’s story is one that can inspire anyone. The former banker followed his passion and it has led him all the way to the top. Taking Empoli from Serie B to the top flight of Italian football in 2014 led directly to even bigger promotion for the manager as well. After helping the side to survival, Napoli’s job offer proved too difficult to resist.
The 59-year-old turned the Naples-based side into a football playing beast. Under his tutelage Gli Azzurri became the main challengers to Juventus to the Scudetto. That was made possible because the Italian tactician had demonstrated an uncanny ability to get the best out of his players on a consistent basis.
They came ever so close in his final season with the club pushing the serial winners all the way to the final weeks of the campaign. The disappointment of still losing out in the end with four points must have contributed to his decision to move elsewhere.
He joined Chelsea at a time the club was in dire need of a rebuilding job. After falling out of the top four and hence, Champions League football, drastic measures were required to fix things as bad news prevailed both on and off the pitch. With just a handful of new recruits, he has turned the Blues into one of the best sides on the continent. So much so that a new word has been added into the football lexicon – Sarri-ball.
But the Blues don’t just play nice, they are the only unbeaten team in all of Europe’s top five leagues as we speak. The FA Cup holders have not lost a single game this season in all competitions. That sets them up nicely for Sarri to win the first trophy of his career.
Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Is this a case of leaving the best for the last? I’ll leave that for you to decide. But no manager has had a more significant impact on the best way the game can be played in the last decade than Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan is a master tactician and with the requisite resources is capable of turning any side into a winning team. The best part is they will be no dull moment with Guardiola’s side playing to his instructions.
Also, his ability to improve players and weave them into a team that dominates opponents and wins games is second to none. He remains one of the best examples any new manager can look up to and build a solid foundation in football management.
After dominating England last term, the Cityzens are on a mission to do it all over again. History tells us not to bet against him, if his time in Barcelona and Bayern Munich is anything to go by.
These three managers have shown that the best football produces the best results. It is not a coincidence that they are still unbeaten in the league and occupy the top three spots on the table. Together, they point the way to how the game should and will be played by the winning managers of the future for the fans’ enjoyment.