Unai Emery is an enigma. Revered as a coaching genius by some, he is considered a laughing stock by others – most notably Arsenal fans.
The Basque tactician renowned for his attention to detail outwitted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Wednesday night to land a remarkable fourth Europa League trophy as his Villarreal side beat Manchester United after an epic 22-penalty shootout.
Yet both times he has a landed a job at a European giant – Paris Saint-Germain and the Gunners – he has ostensibly failed. So, still just 49, where does he rank among the best managers in Europe now?
Villarreal boss Unai Emery won an unprecedented fourth Europa League on Wednesday night
Champions League win – 5 points
Major European title win (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France) – 4pts
Europa League/UEFA Cup win – 3pts
Major domestic cup or Club World Cup (excluding Super Cups and League Cups) – 2 pts
Champions League runner-up – 1pt
Sportsmail‘s chief sports writer Martin Samuel described Emery as ‘a serious player in the realm of modern coaching’ after his triumph over Manchester United, and he certainly has to be taken into consideration when looking at best bosses around today.
To try and simplify a debate that could rage on forever, we’ve narrowed down the criteria to define a ‘modern’ coach as one who is still coaching today. So that rules out Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Vicente del Bosque and many more.
We have quantified success in the only way it can really be quantified: trophies. Five points are awarded to a manager for winning the Champions League, four for a title in one of Europe’s five major leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France), three for a Europa League win, two for a major domestic cup win or Club World Cup (this excludes the League Cups played only in England and France and any Super Cup) and finally one point for finishing as a Champions League runner-up (yes, it’s not a trophy, but to get to the final is an achievement in itself).
This approach admittedly gives more credit to a manager nearer the end of their career – for example, Thomas Tuchel, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino do not make the top 10 but Rafa Benitez does – though just as with players, no prizes are awarded for being a potentially legendary manager.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 European managers of the modern era…
9=) UNAI EMERY
21 points: 1 league title, 4 Europa Leagues, 2 cups
The Villarreal boss just squeezes in by virtue of his Europa League success. He did win a league title with PSG in 2018, but in a competition where they are so dominant he is more remembered for not winning it in 2017 – and of course that infamous collapse against Barcelona in the Champions League.
Unai Emery looks dejected after his Arsenal side lost the 2019 Europa League final to Chelsea
9=) LUIS ENRIQUE
21 points: 1 Champions League, 2 league titles, 4 cups
Enrique is level with his fellow countryman despite having only been a club manager for five years, compared to Emery’s 17. All of his success was concentrated in a trophy-laden three-year spell at Barcelona, which ended in 2017. The Spain boss can expect to shoot up this list if he returns to club coaching.
Luis Enrique celebrates Barcelona’s 2015 Champions League final win with Lionel Messi
8) ANTONIO CONTE
22 points: 5 league titles, 1 cup
The 51-year-old Italian is a serial title-winner. His five league triumphs – four in Italy, one in England – have come in his last seven seasons managing at club level. European success has eluded him thus far, with a defeat in last year’s Europa League final, and he’ll be looking to fix that in his next job after leaving Inter this week.
Antonio Conte (centre) left Inter Milan just days after celebrating their Serie A win
7) JURGEN KLOPP
23 points: 1 Champions League, 3 league titles, 2 cups, 2 CL runner-up
Is that the sound of jaws dropping in Liverpool? If you asked football fans who the best manager in the world is right now, the German would make most people’s top three. However, over the course of the modern era, he is lagging behind many of his contemporaries in the trophy stakes. There is, of course, plenty of time change that.
Jurgen Klopp led Liverpool to their first Premier League in 30 years – his third league triumph
6) RAFA BENITEZ
25 points: 1 Champions League, 2 league titles, 2 Europa Leagues, 3 cups, 1 CL runner-up
Right now, Benitez is clearly not a better manager than Klopp. Aged 61, he’s not won a major trophy since the Coppa Italia in 2014 with Napoli and was last managing in China. But his successes with Liverpool and Valencia, supplemented by trophies at Chelsea and in Italy, mark him out as a managerial great of the modern era.
Rafa Benitez led Liverpool to a remarkable Champions League triumph back in 2005
5) ZINEDINE ZIDANE
27 points: 3 Champions Leagues, 2 league titles, 2 cups
No-one could question his ability as a player but, like Emery, Zidane is something of an enigma as a manager. He won an incredible three Champions Leagues in a row, something which he’ll forever be remembered, but some feel he needs to succeed elsewhere to be considered a true coaching great.
Zinedine Zidane divides opinion despite winning three straight Champions Leagues
4) MAX ALLEGRI
34 points: 6 league titles, 4 cups, 2 CL runner-up
Another serial Serie A winner who did most of his good work with Juventus, Allegri also won a title with AC Milan. He was twice thwarted by Barcelona in Champions League finals in the mid-2010s and will be hoping to go one better ahead of his return to Turin next season, further cementing his legacy in the process.
Max Allegri is returning to Juventus for a second spell after two years out of the game
3) CARLO ANCELOTTI
42 points: 3 Champions Leagues, 4 league titles, 5 cups, 1 CL runner-up
Along with Zidane, the only manager on the list to have won three Champions Leagues – though Pep Guardiola could change that this weekend. The likeable Italian, now in charge of Everton aged 61, holds the distinction of winning his league titles in four different countries.
Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti lifts the FA Cup while Chelsea manager in 2010
2) JOSE MOURINHO
43 points: 2 Champions Leagues, 6 league titles, 1 Europa League, 3 cups
The controversial Portuguese boss’ stock has fallen in the last few years after failures at Tottenham and Manchester United, but he is still box-office and will have always have his trophies to back up his bold claims. At 58, he should still have plenty left in the tank and is looking to reignite his career next season at Roma.
Jose Mourinho won the second of his Champions League trophies at Inter Milan in 2010
1) PEP GUARDIOLA
62 points: 2 Champions Leagues, 9 league titles, 8 cups
The undisputed No 1. However we decided to measure this, Pep was always going to come out on top. In an era where managers have moved from country to country like never before, Guardiola has done it with more success than anyone else. He insists he will retire early, but aged 50 that still gives him plenty of time to keep winning.
Man City manager Pep Guardiola has won nine league title in three different countries