Footballers often cite the influence of their managers being just as important, if not greater than that of their own fathers, with the tutorship of their gaffers playing a pivotal role in their development. 


The beautiful game isn't short of legendary mentors, so here we've brought together a selection of six of its greatest mentors and their pupils.


Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola

Johan Cruyff of Barcelona

In May 1988, an ailing Barcelona - who had won only a single league title in 14 years at the time - appointed Johan Cruyff as their new coach. It proved a masterstroke, and a decision which would lay the foundation for the Barcelona we know today.


A decade on from leaving the club as a player, the former winger had returned to lead from the sideline. He revamped the club's youth academy and implemented his new tactical system from top to bottom. Quite literally. From the first team down through to Under-8 level, Barcelona were playing Cruyff's way.


Cruyff noticed Guardiola - despite his thin frame - was smart and skilled enough to flourish in the pivot position in midfield, and he became a first team regular in the 1991/92 season. Guardiola was key, even at the age of 20, to Barcelona's success that year as they lifted both the La Liga trophy and the European Cup.


The Dutchman left Barcelona in 1996, but had a profound effect on Barcelona's style of play over the next two decades and up to the modern day. Additionally, Guardiola's identity as a coach has been formulated by Cruyff's ideas, though the Spaniard is always keen to push tactical boundaries and try new things. 


Sir Bobby Robson and Ronaldo

bobby robson feature

Moving from one Barcelona coach to another...


The legendary Sir Bobby Robson and (the 'original') Ronaldo spent just a season working together at Barca in the mid-1990's. But the great man's impact on the young Brazilian stuck with him throughout his stellar career.


Robson spoke very highly of Ronaldo during their time together, and the former World Cup star himself confirmed Robson played a massive part in settling him in to his career in European football. Having excelled at PSV, Robson paid a then world record fee to lure the Brazilian to Camp Nou, and it was in the 1996/97 season at Barcelona where Ronaldo was perhaps at his physical peak.


Ronaldo has openly credited Robson with being a footballing father to him and the rest of his players, while he still credits him as one of the greatest coaches ever to grace the game.


Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry

Arsenal v Charlton Athletic

Arsenal's all-time leading goalscorer, Thierry Henry earned his big break in club football under Arsene Wenger.


Though recognised as a big talent in France (he was a part of their World Cup winning squad of 1998) prior to his move to Arsenal, he struggled to find his path to excellence. Wenger signed the young left winger after a struggle at Juventus and adjusted his position to centre forward.


The rest is history. Henry is considered perhaps the greatest striker to ever grace the Premier League and was supremely important to the club's league title in 2002, and the 'Invincibles' season of 2003/04. 


Jose Mourinho and Didier Drogba

Chelsea Training & Press Conference

​Didier Drogba was never quite the complete package in his early 20s. He started making a name for himself in the French league, scoring goals for the likes of Guingamp, but Jose Mourinho realised the potential in the Ivorian after an excellent season with Marseille.


Chelsea paid £24m to Marseille for Drogba's services in 2004, and under Mourinho's guidance he went from strength to strength. The strong, hungry Drogba was the perfect fit for Mourinho's system at the time and was perfectly adept at scoring goals and bringing other players into the game from his lone-striking role.


Drogba went on to become one of the finest players in Chelsea's history, scoring crucial goals on their way to a host of successes.


Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol  - Liga BBVA

Back to Pep we go. From apprentice to master, with perhaps the greatest ever in tow.


Lionel Messi was always destined for greatness no matter which manager held the reins at Barcelona. He was handed a debut by Frank Rijkaard in 2004, but after adjusting to life in the Catalans' first team, he really came into his own under Pep Guardiola's tutelage.


Messi himself has credited the Spaniard for the role he played in his development, and perhaps the biggest development of all was Guardiola's decision to thrust Messi into his newly-created position of 'false-nine'.


Guardiola created the role during a study of tapes prior to a match with Real Madrid, and early on in the game set about making the tactical change. Messi would flourish in the role and while he's now frequenting the right side of attack again (and occasionally midfield) Guardiola played a huge part in making Messi what he is today.


​Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United Training

Having been urged to sign him by his own players after a pre-season friendly in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson brought precocious talent Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford from Sporting CP.


The Portuguese teenager arrived for £12.24m with a stellar reputation, a bag of tricks and as it turned out early on, little end product. Ferguson recognised the potential greatness in the now Real Madrid superstar, and was mindful to expose him to first team football and protect him from the spotlight at the same time.


Ronaldo is now a three-time Ballon d'Or winner and credits Ferguson as his footballing father.


This article is brought to you by the film Creed. Adonis (Jordan), son of former world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer. Watch the trailer below.

​​