Often overlooked because they are a rare species in Europe – it shouldn’t be forgotten that 9 South American managers have won the World Cup which is as many as their European counterparts (Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo won it twice). This week we look at the Top Ten currently in the game, so retired managers, however recent, are obviously out (sorry Carlos Alberto Parreira) but so are managers currently filling in job applications forms, however good they have been (sorry Manuel Pellegrini).
10. Reinaldo Rueda – Ecuador
The Colombian started off in management working his way through the Colombian team, success at U-17, U-20, U-21 and U-23 level eventually saw him in charge of Los Cafeteros for the 2004 Copa América and subsequent 2006 qualifying campaign. A respectable 4th place in Peru wasn’t complemented with a place in Germany and as such Reinaldo parted company with Colombia and took up the top job in Honduras. In the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup he led Honduras to a historic victory over giant neighbours Mexico only to inexplicably get knocked out by Guadeloupe in the Quarter Finals. Two years later they didn’t slip up and made the semi-finals, but the best was yet to come. In October of 2009 a 1-0 win over El Salvador saw them squeeze ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference to snaffle the last automatic place at the World Cup. It was an incredible result for Honduras and Rueda in a campaign that saw them beat Mexico once again. In the World Cup they couldn’t manage a goal but did earn a point in arguably the most boring game ever (I was there!) against Switzerland. Now Reina has taken up a new challenge with Ecuador who are looking to recover after the retirement of most of their Golden Generation.
9. Oswaldo de Oliveira – Kashima Antlers
In 2000 Oswaldo de Oliveira found himself in an unusual position, he was managing Corinthians in the very first FIFA World Club Cup Final despite never having won an intercontinental tournament. They had qualified by being national champions in the host country (a.k.a classic FIFA illogical logic) but rather than making up the numbers they went on and won the whole thing. Oswaldo then managed a bunch of Brazilian clubs before turning eastwards in 2007. Since then he has not looked back. As manager of Kashima Antlers he has won 3 consecutive league titles and been named J-League Manager of the Year in the 3 seasons he has been there. To prove not anybody can do it – this ended a five-year barren spell in which the Antlers had only picked up a J.League Cup under Brazilian coaches Toninho Cerezo and Paulo Autuori.
8. Luis Alberto Cubilla – Olimpia
He sometimes looks a bit out-of-place on the touchline in his suit and shoes but no socks – like your granddad who got lost and wandered into the stadium. But appearances can be deceiving – Luis Cubilla won the Copa Libertadores with Paraguayan side Olimpia in his first year as a manager in 1979 to add to their domestic league title. He then won the Intercontinental Cup in Japan, probably the only time Paraguay have been world champion in anything! Since then he has coached 9 other clubs but has always been Olimpia’s go to man. He returned for a year in 1982 to win a league title. A five-year spell ended in 1993 with two more league titles and another Copa Libertadores. His longest spell in 1995 to 2002 yielded just the four league titles and one continental championship. At the start of this year’s Clausura with José Cardozo struggling, El Decano ditched him and phoned the Cubilla hotline once again – since his return they have dragged themselves up to fifth but 2011 could well be the year of the Uruguayan veteran’s 9th and 10th Paraguayan League Titles (Apertura and Clausura) at the age of 71.
7. Héctor Cúper – Aris Thessalonki
The first South American manager to reach a Champions League final – Cúper did it consecutively with Valencia although both times they missed out, first getting thwacked by Real Madrid and then unluckily missing out on penalties against Bayern Munich. He also just missed out with his previous club Real Mallorca…three times! First a Copa Del Rey Final in 1998, then the Super Cup and Cup Winner’s Cup in the 1998-99 season. It was still an incredible achievement for the islanders to be anywhere close and Cúper deservedly picked up the 1999 Don Balón award for the best coach in La Liga. At Inter Milan he was runner-up in Serie A and you will never guess what happened in the final of the Greek Cup last season with current club Aris Thessalonki…yes you guessed it – runner-up! But the very fact that Héctor Cúper has been so close to scooping some of European Club Football’s top prize (I’m not talking about the Greek Cup anymore) means he deserves his place at number 5.
6. Claudio Borghi – Boca Juniors
At only 46 years old, there is time to win a lot more, but Borghi already has plenty of titles to his name. He started his management in Chile and in his 2nd job at Colo-Colo he got the best out of Humberto Suazo and it paid massive dividends. Four consecutive league titles, a Copa Sudamericana Final in 2006 the same year he was name South American Manager of the Year. He decided to move back to his native Argentina and once again it was his 2nd job that reaped rewards. As manager of Argentinos Juniors (the club he won four trophies with as a player in the 1980s) he finished 6th in his first season, an improvement of 14 places on the season before. Then this year in the 2010 Clausura he did the unthinkable – he won the league with Argentinos Juniors for the first time in 25 years! That gave Borghi the opportunity to take the reins at Boca, one of the biggest jobs in South American football. Admittedly he is finding it difficult at the moment, but at his young age Borghi has already got the track record to prove he can get things right and win trophies.
5. Marcelo Bielsa – Chile
El Loco Bielsa had a strong track record in club management in his native Argentina (3 league titles at 2 clubs and a runners-up medal in the Copa Libertadores) before he was appointed the national team’s coach. In 2004 he won the Olympic Gold thanks to a Carlos Tevez goal and they were arguably the most exciting team at that year’s Copa América only to finish runner-up to Brazil in depressing fashion. After a three-year hiatus Bielsa took the reins at Chile in 2007 after a disappointing showing in the Copa América saw previous manager Acosta leave. Chile qualified for the World Cup in some style, scoring goals in their 18 games the most they had managed since. In South Africa they continued to thrill and the two games they won should have been won by more than one goal
4. Luiz Felipe Scolari – Palmeiras
The only South American World Cup Winner currently in management automatically gets him a place on this list. Scolari won that prize in 2002 and has had reasonable success at international level since. He took Portugal to the Euro 2004 Final (their best ever placement) and the 2006 World Cup semi-finals (joint best finish). Not given much time at Chelsea after failing to meet the demands of Roman Abramovich he went East to Uzbekistan before returning to Palmeiras where he won the Copa Libertadores in 1999 during a three-year spell. With a talented squad at his disposal Palmeiras should be higher placed than mid-table but they have a chance for silverware in the Copa Sudamericana, and are my hot tip in that competition!
3. Gerardo Martino – Paraguay
He took charge of the Paraguayan national side on the back of some serious domestic success. The Argentinian won three titles in his home country with Newell’s in the late 80s/early 90s before moving next door to Paraguay. After winning the league consecutively with Libertad he switched to rivals Cerro Porteño winning the league with them in 2004, after a brief stint in Argentina he returned to Libertad to complete a hat-trick of championships with the Gumarelo. His performance at the 2007 Copa América with Paraguay and flying start to the World Cup Qualifiers earned him to the South American Coach of the Year award and in 2010 things got even better. He switched between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 to guide Paraguay through to the World Cup Quarter Finals (their best ever finish) and were a penalty miss and an out of sorts striker (yes Roque that’s you) away from upsetting Spain and going even further.
2. Edgardo Bauza– LDU Quito
Five years ago Edgardo Bauza had 1 title to show for 7 years of management, a Peruvian league championship with Sporting Cristal. Then in 2007 he went to LDU Quito and revolutionised them. Don’t feel ashamed if you have never heard of LDU Quito before, while they have had domestic success in Ecuador they had never been big on the international stage – until Bauza came along. In 2008 after winning their national league the previous year they took part in the Copa Libertadores and won – the first time an Ecuadorian club had ever won an intercontinental trophy! It took a Wayne Rooney goal (yes he did used to score goals) to beat them in the 2008 World Club Cup Final. That result incredibly saw Bauza resign to take up a lucrative contract in the Middle East, but less than a year later he was back at LDU Quito. So far this year with a much changed team from 2008, they have picked up the Recopa Sudamerica (think LatAm equivalent to the European Super Cup) and Liga are top of the league and last night thumped U. San Felipe 6-1 in the Copa Sudamericana as Bauza looks to complete his hat trick of intercontinental titles.
1. Óscar Tabárez – Uruguay
Surely one of the biggest turnarounds of the last year – Tabárez took Uruguay from a 5th place finish in Qualifying and an intercontinental-playoff against Costa Rica to a 4th place finish in South Africa. They were defensively excellent and his use of two holding midfielders was a major factor in that – it also allowed his talented striking trident of Forlán, Suarez and Cavani to roam free. It was redemption for Tabárez who saw his team narrowly beaten in the 2nd round by hosts Italy in the 1990 tournament. In club management he’s proved his worth as well, a Copa Libertadores winner with Peñarol (1987) and Boca Juniors (2003) the latter coming after a disappointing European adventure that started with Cagliari and included AC Milan. His time at Boca and now Uruguay have undoubtedly re-established his reputation since Europe and at the 2011 Copa América he leads one of the main challengers to the Argentina/Brazil duopoly.
That is it for this week (just the one blog because of travel commitments!) – but next week there will be two – look forward to Top Ten International Strikers.