Ever since the formation of the Premier League, we have seen plenty of overseas managers grace the game. They have shown their flamboyant styles to the game along with characters on and off the pitch.
Managers of today include the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Erik ten Hag, Unai Emery, and Mikel Arteta to me, who is considered the top coaches in the Premier League. You’re up against the best which is what it so difficult to maintain that job
Here in my opinion are the best foreign managers to have managed in the English Premier League.
Arsene Wenger | French
Wenger is no doubt one of the best overseas managers in Premier League history.
Since his arrival at Arsenal in 1996, he single-handedly changed the image of football bringing in flair and fitness. He changed the diet of the team which was soon adopted by every manager on the planet.
His 22-year spell at the club and his style of football made Arsenal a force to be reckoned with by the late 90s until 2018 with three Premier League trophies to his name along with 7 FA cup wins.
One standout achievement of the Arsene Wenger era is winning the Premier League without losing. Check out some of Arsenal’s crazy stats that season.
Jose Mourinho | Portuguese
Managed Chelsea from 2004-07 and again in 2013-15 where he won three Premier Leagues, three league cups, and one FA cup.
A very arrogant and flamboyant manager dubbing himself ‘the special one’ lived up to his name during his spells at the club.
He seems to develop a team well together, one of an aging squad, but I would class him as one of the most decorative managers to have managed in the premier league.
Mourinho also managed Manchester United to win the FA Cup and Europa League at Tottenham.
Although, it must be mentioned that Mourinho’s performance at Tottenham was not as good as other Premier League clubs.
Rafa Benitez | Spanish
His best spell as manager in the premier league was his six years at Liverpool between
2004-10. He became the first Spaniard to manage in the premier league winning the FA cup once and the Champions League in 2005.
His philosophy suited Liverpool, which won over the army of Liverpool fans playing technical and aggressive football that denied opponents to play.
He also had spells with Chelsea where he won the Europa League and the EFL Championship with Newcastle and Everton.
Gerrard Houllier | French
Houllier became joint manager in 1998 with Roy Evans at Liverpool eventually becoming sole manager in the same year until 2004. He rebuilt the club, restoring discipline to the squad.
He turned the club around regarding training facilities and developed a trio of youngsters who went on to do great things which included Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, and Steven Gerrard.
Houllier’s haul of trophies transformed the club from their dire straits in the 90s with one FA Cup in 1992 and one League Cup in 1995. He went on to win five trophies including a cup treble in 2001.
Gianluca Vialli | Italian
He became the first Italian to manage in the premier league for Chelsea in 1998 following the sacking of Ruud Gullit. At 33 years old, he became player-manager off the back of a decorated career with top European clubs, his management style was just as good.
In the 1998/99 season, he retired from professional football to concentrate on his position as Chelsea’s boss. He became the youngest manager to win the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
In the Premier League though, he fought with the best and finished third, four points behind champions Manchester United.
Roberto Martinez | Spanish
Martinez was part of the “Three Amigos” with Wigan Athletic back in the mid-1990s and made an impact as a player and a manager.
He may be a strange one to put on my list but the strength he showed kept them up season after season until they did go down, but did win the FA Cup and took them into Europe.
Everton was the other Premier League club he managed, the less said the better on that one.
Mauricio Pochettino | Argentine
He started his management career in the Premier League at Southampton taking over from Nigel Adkins. Unknown to fans, he instantly transformed the club’s fortunes guiding them to their highest-ever finish of 8th.
Then moving on to Tottenham in 2014, he almost guided them to the title in the 2015/16 season dropping to lowly third place in the league. He was a man manager and improved a host of English players including Harry Kane, one of Europe’s best strikers.
Claudio Ranieri | Italian
Not just known as “another Chelsea manager” who came into English football with plenty of experience and knowledge (but very little English) and spent four seasons with Chelsea leading them to a champion league semi-final and an FA cup final.
He did the unthinkable at Leicester and won the Premier League in 2015/16 ahead of the top money teams of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Tottenham. An unbelievable achievement.
He also managed Fulham and Watford in the Premier League.
Manuel Pellegrini | Argentine
He won the title for Manchester City in his first full season and was the first Chilean to manage in the premier league.
Pellegrini had managed a host of top clubs including River Plate of Brazil and Real Madrid in Spain, known for his attacking style, calmness, and excellent man management.
His adopted ruthlessness in front of goal for Man City saw them score past 100 goals in 34 games.
Carlo Ancelotti | Italian
Ancelotti is the second non-British manager after Arsene Wenger, to win the premier league and FA cup double with Chelsea. The most decorated manager in Europe at the moment. (in my opinion)
His management style was very creative using the 4-4-2 style but switching it from time to time to a Christmas tree formation 4-3-2-1 and still got the most out of the players he had in the squad.
He also went on to manage Everton.
Roberto Mancini | Italian
One of the most charismatic Italian managers of his time, he took over at Manchester City in 2009 and guided them to their first major trophy in 35 years in 2010/11 winning the FA cup and then their first league title in 44 years in 2011/12 beating QPR on the final day of the season 3-2.
Roberto Mancini’s historic achievement with Man City is enough reason to be ranked as one of the best overseas managers in Premier League history.
Guss Hiddink | Dutch
A great manager but only took over as Chelsea’s boss at the interim level, first in 2009 guiding them to the FA cup. In the 2015/16 season, he again took over as interim manager.
So I would hardly call him one of Chelsea’s great managers, despite his fantastic track record at other clubs.
The Rise of Foreign Managers
In the first-ever season in 1992/93, all managers of the twenty-two teams in the premier league were British. Compare it with today and you will see a plethora of overseas managers take charge of many clubs.
Ossie Ardiles was the first overseas manager in the premier league in the following season 1993/94 for Tottenham, and also the first foreign manager in their history.
If you look at the top five leagues across Europe in 2022/23 including England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France, over 70% are homegrown managers and 30% are overseas.
What attracts them to the Premier League?
The Premier League is undoubtedly the best in the world and wanting to manage or even play there, is everyone’s dream. It’s the toughest job in football but with the right owners, it helps.
I think now with the influx of foreign owners taking over clubs, it’s their wealth that attracts more high-profile coaches/managers across the world and what they can bring to the club in terms of style and charisma that will entice the fans.
Foreign Styles of Play vs English Style of Play
The style of football played by overseas managers is somewhat different from the typical English way, shall we say.
They like to be more creative and ambitious, commit forward in attack more, and use different tempos, but still have composure and good team communication.
The style of play in England is very quick, direct, and physical compared with our European counterparts. Known as a no-nonsense style of British football still used today in the Premier League.
The best overseas Premier League managers should be given enough credit.
Outside of England, no Englishman has won the premier league since its evolution in 1992 with Arsene Wenger becoming the first in the United Kingdom to win the Premier League.
The only two Englishmen who have come close to winning the Premier League and finishing second are Ron Atkinson of Aston Villa and Kevin Keegan of Newcastle.
One day an Englishman will win the Premier League.