The Best Managers Never to Have Won a European Trophy

Arsene Wenger
Arsène Wenger is widely heralded as one of the greatest managers in the Premier League era but was never able to oversee a European triumph | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

For some, the brand of football a manager inspires defines their spell at a club. For others, the slog of a league campaign spanning 30-plus matches is all that is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Yet, European football - with its midweek, floodlit games across the continent - possesses a unique, intangible allure.

Aside from the universal truth that football is always better after 7.30pm, part of the charm of continental competition is the exclusivity among the victors. European silverware resides only in the fantasies of most and has even eluded some of the game's mightiest managerial talents.

1. Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff look on as Tottenham Hotspur were beaten by Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino's decade-long managerial career may not have garnered a major trophy (European or otherwise) quite yet, but the former Tottenham Hotspur boss has won no shortage of admirers with his energetic, front-foot football.

Espanyol and Southampton were hardly expected to challenge for continental honours when he took over, while Spurs reached their first European final in a quarter of century under the 48-year-old's stewardship.

If any club can cajole Pochettino back into management, his wait for silverware will surely not last much longer.

2. Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini
Roberto Mancini has ten domestic trophies as a manager but never one in Europe | Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Technically, Roberto Mancini has never won a European trophy while officially listed as the team's manager. Yet, the ludicrously talented Italian forward had a significant say on proceedings both on and off the pitch during his playing days.

At Sampdoria - where Mancini won the 1990 European Cup Winners' Cup - the former Italy international would sit in on transfer discussions and even had a say on the design of the club's kit.

Mancini would win a second Scudetto and Cup Winners' Cup at Lazio. The manager at the time, Sven-Göran Eriksson, summed up his number ten's influence: "Mancini was a genius," he told The Athletic. "He saw things on the pitch quicker than anybody else and his vision was incredible. Tactically, he was a coach even when he was a player."

3. Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte walking past the Europa League trophy after being beaten by Sevilla in the final | Pool/Getty Images

Antonio Conte's first ever European final as a manager could hardly have started better. Five minutes into the 2020 Europa League final, Romelu Lukaku converted a penalty for Inter after being scythed down by Sevilla's Diego Carlos.

Yet, the Andalusians fired back quickly and eventually ended an exciting encounter as 3-2 winners.

Conte's inability to steer a side past the Champions League quarter-finals has often been used to criticise the 51-year-old, and this latest European failure is hardly going to quell the dissenting voices.

4. Massimiliano Allegri

UEFA Champions League"Ajax v Juventus FC"
Massimiliano Allegri won four consecutive league and cup doubles in his first four season with Juventus | VI-Images/Getty Images

Maurizio Sarri's dismissal this summer was greeted with sympathy from many outsiders, after the 61-year-old guided Juventus to the Serie A title. You just have to ask Massimiliano Allegri about the high standards of the Bianconeri's powers that be though, after he himself was let go despite winning nine of the ten domestic trophies available in his five years at the club.

Allegri's startling domination of Italian football with Juve was preceded by perhaps an even more impressive accomplishment - managing to juggle all the jostling egos of a flair-laden Milan side on the way to the club's last Scudetto in 2011.

At Juventus, Allegri twice reached the Champions League final only to be denied – first by Lionel Messi's Barcelona, then by a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid.

The former Pescara midfielder may yet scratch that continental itch at the next club lucky enough to appoint him.

5. Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa may be short of silverware himself, but his idiosyncratic football has inspired scores of today's best and brightest coaches | George Wood/Getty Images

Marcelo Bielsa standing among the game's greatest managers is not measured in the number of silver trinkets which adorn his mantlepiece. The mythical Argentinian has been a direct influence on a bevvy of the modern day stars of management, with the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino never slow to sing Bielsa's praises at any given moment.

Leeds United's promotion hero was 90 minutes away from winning the 2012 Europa League final only to be undone by Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid (another manager who has cited Bielsa as a huge influence).

6. Sir Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish
Kenny Dalglish was unable to replicate his European success as a player after entering management in 1985 | Getty Images/Getty Images

As a player, Sir Kenny Dalglish won no fewer than three European Cups with Liverpool, scoring the only goal of the final against Club Brugge in 1978. However, he was unable to replicate that continental success in management mainly because, for each season Dalglish was at the helm of the Reds, Liverpool were banned from UEFA competition following the Heysel Stadium tragedy in 1985.

Throughout the entirety of his managerial career, which encompassed more than a decade spent at the helm of four different clubs, Dalglish oversaw just 16 games in European competition

7. Arsène Wenger

Arsenal's French coach Arsene Wenger loo
Arsène Wenger was forced to watch Barcelona collected the 2006 Champions League trophy after losing 2-1 to the Catalans in the final | ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

Arsène Wenger's illustrious managerial career spanned more than three decades, encompassed thousands of matches and a host of domestic triumphs, but not a single European title.

With Monaco and Arsenal, Wenger oversaw more than 250 matches in UEFA competition, reaching three finals of three different tournaments.

The start of this unfortunate trilogy saw Wenger's Monaco - who had three future World Cup winners and George Weah among their ranks - defeated by Werder Bremen in the 1992 Cup Winners' Cup final.

After losing on penalties in the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray, Arsenal squandered a 1-0 lead against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League showpiece.

At the end of his 22-year tenure with the Gunners, Wenger described that bitter defeat in Paris as 'the biggest regret' of his career in north London.