Not many great players become great managers. There certainly isn’t a correlation between the two. Some of the greatest managers of all-time have never been top professional players. However, great players do get a head start through their experience of having been in the shoes of their players.
Cruyff is regarded as one man who has had the greatest influence on football over the past 50 years. And it is with good reason that he is held in such high esteem. The Dutchman started his career at Ajax Amsterdam and took them to unprecedented heights before signing up for Barcelona and helping the club establish one of the best coaching facilities for young footballers.
The legendary football man, who epitomised the Dutch side that earned renown for total football during the 1970s, went on to win Barcelona’s first ever European Cup and shaped the identity of the club for which they are still renowned today.
Guardiola, a disciple of Cruyff, was promoted to the Barcelona first team when the Dutchman was in charge of the club. The young Catalan went on to become one of the greatest deep-lying midfielders of his generation and was an integral part of the side that won the European Cup in 1992.
He has gone on to become one of the most respected managers in modern game and presided over Barcelona during the club’s most successful period in history – 2008 to 2012. He later went on to win three league titles in as many years at Bayern Munich and is currently in charge of Manchester City.
Conte endeared himself to the Juventus faithful with his adaptability and ability to play virtually any role in midfield. The Italian was usually deployed as a central midfielder with duties to keep the ball in circulation or as a defensive midfielder, but his combative nature and speed also saw him being used as a box-to-box midfielder. He went on to win five league titles and a Champions League with the Old Lady.
Conte started his managerial career with Arezzo in 2006 and eventually got the Juventus job in 2011. During his three years at the club, the former midfielder guided his team to three league titles and later took an unfancied Italian national team to the brinks of a semi-final spot at the Euro 2016. He is now in charge of Chelsea.
Beckenbauer is regarded as the pioneer of the libero position. The centre-back was known for his intelligence on the pitch and his élan and ability to play the ball out from the back, virtually acting as a deep lying playmaker. He won four league titles and three European Cups with Bayern Munich as well as a World Cup and a European Championship with Germany.
He later won the Bundesliga as Bayern Munich boss as well as a Ligue 1 title with Marseille. However, his managerial career reached its apotheosis when he guided Germany to the World Cup in 1990.
Clough was a prolific goalscorer during his playing days and notched a staggering 197 league goals in just 213 games for Middlesbrough. He didn’t lose his scoring touch upon transfer to Sunderland where he amassed another 54 goals in 61 league games. However, his playing career was cut short due to injury.
The Englishman guided Nottingham Forest to their only league title as well as two European Cups, ensuring that he will always be remembered for his managerial excellence despite his exceptional playing career.