Best young football managers in the world

Experience is a degree, but so is the ambition of those who have just started.  In Europe, a cohort of coaches under the age of 45 is emerging who, despite their lack of the illustrious resumes of Ancelotti, Zidane, Guardiola, Mourinho, Van Gaal, and company, are demonstrating their merit in the hopes of one day joining a premier club.

Collage of Arne Slot, Mikel Arteta, Xabi Alonso and Ruben Amori, some successful young managers in football

With Xavi leaving Barcelona, Tuchel technically fired at Bayern, and Klopp departing Liverpool, it's open season for managers. In a footballing rarity, the biggest talking point of the summer will revolve around coach movements rather than player transfers. 

And while it's customary for the big boys to target established names for their dugouts, the recent successes of young coaches, championed by the incredible exploits of Xabi Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen, means the spotlight will shift from the seasoned assurance of veteran coaches to the promising potential of young guns.

This means popular choices like Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and Zinedine Zidane, who are currently unattached, will have to take the back burner for some obscure prospect with promise. 

But some of these names have more than promise to boast about in their burgeoning portfolio. Based on their resounding achievements that position them in the pantheon of future greats, the following are the best young managers in football:

1. Thiago Motta (Age: 41)

An European runner-up with the Italian national team in 2012, Thiago Motta, as a coach, first led Genoa in Italy in 2019, then Spezia from July 2021, obtaining salvation a day early. At the end of the tournament he left the Ligurian team to join Bologna on 12 September 2022, taking over from the sacked Sinisa Mihajlovic. 

Losing his first match in charge, he finished the championship in a commendable but uninspiring ninth place with 54 points. 

It is his second season at the helm of the rossoblù team that he really took off. 

With well-drilled tactics that emphasise defensive resilience over attacking flair in a rip off peak Jose Mourinho's play book, Thiago Motta's Bologna has conceded the fifth-lowest number of goals per game in Europe's Top 5 leagues. 

For context, this is a defence meaner than PSG, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich, teams who are perennial contenders for the title. 

However, calling him a defensive coach will be a major detour from the truth as Bologna this season command the 15th highest possession in Europe top leagues.

Bologna currently sit 4th on the Serie A log, four points above 5th-placed Roma, who they beat home and way. Their standing place then as a strong favourite for Champions League qualification, which will mark the first European qualification in their history. This is a fairy tale story that surely rivals Xabi Alonso’s.

2. Julian Nagelsmann (Age: 39)

Without a doubt the most auspicious coach on a global scale, Julian Nagelsmann at just 33 has already guided Leipzig to the Champions League semifinals and Hoffenheim to the Champions League.

He began coaching at 20 in youth categories and gradually rose to become Thomas Tuchel's assistant at Augsburg. Although his mentor has now coached a slew of powerhouses in PSG, Chelsea and Bayern, there is little doubt that the disciple will surpass the master.

3. Ruben Amorim (Age: 44)

Like Nagelsmann, Ruben Amorim is poised to emerge as one of the most influential coaches in the upcoming decade. At only 35, he has revolutionised Portuguese football with Sporting, which few years ago was mired in institutional crisis and is now the undisputed leader of the Liga NOS. 

Some seasons ago, with Sporting Braga, he won the League Cup and was the primary supporter of Trincao, whom he promoted before the youngster signed for Barça. 

4. Xabi Alonso (Age: 42)

Breaking the dominance of FC Bayern and storming Europe as an unprecedented invincible is no cakewalk, and it is mainly thanks to Xabi Alonso that Bayer Leverkusen became German champions in an incredibly confident manner.

Before his time as a coach, it's very important to pay attention to the player as without it, he would never have become the coach he is.

As aptly described by monsieur Mourinho in an old clip that has recently gained significant traction on social media, Alonso is a fusion coach who blends the best elements of his own coaches, Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, and Rafa Benítez, into his own style.

This is an Inspiration that is lacking in many coaches who have no significant professional experience as players.

5. Mikel Arteta (Age: 42)

A couple of years as Guardiola's assistant is equivalent to obtaining a master's degree in coaching a professional team. Arteta, who was a trusted assistant to the City coach, departed for struggling Arsenal in December 2019, one of his former clubs as a player. At the time.

The Spaniard has successfully reinstated the club's identity with vibrant and exuberant football, culminating in the Gunners' first FA Cup victory since 2017 (nearly a year later), first Champions quarterfinals qualification in 24 years, and consecutive Premier League title pushes.

6. Domenico Tedesco (Age: 38)

A direct pupil of Nagelsmann (though two years older), the Italo-German coach was in charge of Hoffenheim's reserve team when Julian was coaching the first team.

His impressive statistics prompted Schalke to sign him up immediately, although he failed with the Gelsenkirchen team after just one season. 

Spartak Moscow, which has been trying for years to return to the European elite, entrusted Tedesco with their new project, and for the first time in years, they are back in the fight for the league title in Russia. 

He is currently the head coach of the Belgian national team, where he's unbeaten since his February 2023 appointment till time of writing this article.

Tedesco still has a long way to go, but everything points to him returning to a top club sooner rather than later.

7. Roberto de Zerbi (Age: 44)

When one looks at the EPL standings of 2022/23 and sees Brighton in Europa League places, it tends to surprise. The architect of this anomaly is Roberto de Zerbi, who has become the hottest coach of Italian origin.

Despite his unpromising start - lasting only three months at Parma and failing to keep Benevento in Serie A - everything has changed.

Although 2024 has witnessed a somewhat underwhelming campaign, based on last season's high standards, Brighton are poised for a comfortable top half finish once again

8. Julian Stephan (Age: 44)

Julian Stephan's accomplishments with Rennes, which include a French Cup victory, a victory over PSG in the final within four months of assuming leadership, qualification for the Champions League the subsequent season, and the identification and development of promising players such as Camavinga, provide ample justification for the notion that he harbours considerable ambitions in the realm of elite coaching. 

Julian Stephan, the son of a coach (his father, Guy, assisted Deschamps with the French national team that won the World Cup), strives to surpass his father's accomplishments.

9. Genaro Gattuso (Age: 46)

Following Ancelotti's unanticipated dismissal as manager of Napoli, the Italian club adopted a tactic akin to that of several major clubs in recent times: selecting a renowned former player whose coaching background remains largely obscure. The chosen one was Gattuso, who had been the only coach to guide AC Milan to respectable results in recent years. 

During his time in Naples, Gattuso reinstated competitiveness into a Naples club that was contending for Serie A status only a few years prior to his arrival.

However since winning the Coppa Italia with Napoli, his profile has been blotted by uninspiring one-year spells at Fiorentina, Valencia and Marseille. He is currently a free agent.