Who Are the Most Successful Managers in Champions League History

The Champions League title is the ultimate prize in European football, one contested every year by the continent’s top teams. Pep Guardiola is considered to be the greatest manager of the modern era, however, as of April 2023, it is the sole piece of silverware that has evaded his enormously successful Manchester City side, and is one that both he and his club is desperate to get their hands on.

Although the Spaniard won the coveted trophy twice as Barcelona manager (and also once as a player with the club), and is regularly considered to be one of the greatest of all time, that hole in City’s trophy cabinet only seems to be growing as time goes on. If Guardiola was to win the UCL with the Cityzens this year, he would be just the fourth manager to have won it three times. So, which managers have won the most Champions League titles, and which country has produced the most UCL-winning gaffers?

Which Managers Have Won the Most Champions League Titles?

Below, we have compiled a table of the five most successful managers in Champions League history. It is worth mentioning that, as several managers throughout history have won two European Cups (as the UCL used to be known), we have chosen the two that are still actively managing.

Manager Titles Won Years Won Team(s) Won With
Carlo Ancelotti 4 2003,2007, 2014,2022 AC Milan, Real Madrid
Bob Paisley 3 1977, 1978, 1981 Liverpool
Zinedine Zidane 3 2016, 2017, 2018 Real Madrid
Pep Guardiola 2 2009, 2011 Barcelona
Jose Mourinho 2 2004, 2010 Porto, Inter Milan

Carlo Ancelotti

First up, and firmly in the lead, we have “Don Carlo”, one of the greatest managers of all time, and the only gaffer to lift the Champions League four times. Whilst Pep may get more plaudits, when it comes to winning the biggest trophies of all, the man who, rather bizarrely managed Everton, very much leads the way.

The Italian is also the only manager to ever reach five UCL finals, and considering he won four of those, that’s a pretty solid win rate! Ancelotti is also the only manager to have won league titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues. The man has some CV and that’s without even mentioning the two European Cups he won with Milan as a player!

The former midfielder’s first two European triumphs as a boss came during his spell at AC Milan between 2001 and 2009, where he first rose to prominence as one of the continent’s top managers. Since then, the coach has won everything there is to win, and was actually the most recent manager to win the UCL, after his Real Madrid side defeated Liverpool to secure his second title with Los Blancos, and his record-breaking fourth. Look out for that raised eyebrow!

Bob Paisley

Next up, we have the most successful British manager in European Cup history, Bob Paisley. Paisley spent nearly 50 years at Liverpool, beginning prior to World War 2 in 1939, when he joined as a player, and ending in 1983, when he retired from management. The former wing-half (you don’t hear about many of those nowadays!) began his managerial career as an assistant to the legendary Bill Shankly, and was then chosen as his successor.

Although reputedly initially reluctant to take the job, Paisley was an incredibly successful manager, winning some 20 trophies in just nine seasons in charge, including six league titles and, of course, three European Cups! This makes him one of the most successful managers of all time, and his Liverpool side were a force to be reckoned with.

Zinedine Zidane

Joint with Paisley on three, we have the elegant Zinedine Zidane, easily the greatest player on this list, and the only manager to have won three Champions Leagues in successive seasons. The Frenchman, who also won the prestigious tournament as a player back in 2002, led Los Blancos to victory in 2016, 2017 and 2018, as the Spanish club continued their dominance over European football.

Although some have criticised Zidane’s successes as “lucky”, the results speak for themselves. They might not have always been the best side in Europe but they got the job done. It will be interesting to see where the former Ballon d’Or winner manages next, and whether he can join Don Carlo on four! Zidane also happens to be the only French manager to have lifted the UCL trophy.

Pep Guardiola

Dropping down from the elite category of triple Champions League-winning managers, we have a man absolutely desperate to join them: Pep Guardiola. The Spanish master tactician, heralded as one of the greatest managers of all time, became the youngest ever UCL-winning boss when his Barcelona side lifted the trophy in 2009. He went on to repeat the feat in 2011, again with the Catalan club, but the trophy has evaded him ever since. Despite enjoying constant domestic success during his tenures at Bayern Munich and Man City, it just hasn’t been Guardiola’s day in Europe (that’s a lot of bad days!) Well, we’ll see if Haaland and co can change that this year…

Jose Mourinho

Finally, also with two, we have the “Special One”, and the only manager on the list to have appeared in a Stormzy music video (at least as far as we know!): (I am) Jose Mourinho. Renowned for tactical knowledge, charisma and controversy in equal measures, Mourinho has to be regarded as one of very best and is one of just five coaches to win Europe’s greatest honour with two different teams.

However, just like Pep, it’s been a while: the Portuguese boss hasn’t managed to get his hands on the trophy since 2010, despite winning a vast number of domestic honours in the last decade. Mourinho’s Roma are currently competing in the Europa League, but we’re sure he’ll be desperate for another shot at UCL glory, should they qualify for next year.

Which Countries’ Managers Have Won the Most UCL Titles?

Italy Football Flag

We have taken a look at some of the most successful managers in Champions League history, but which country has produced the most title-winning gaffers?

Nationality Number of UCLs won by managers
Italy 12
Germany 10
Spain 10
England 7
Netherlands 5

As we can see, Don Carlo’s record four wins have helped Italy to the top of the table, backed up by the achievements of Nereo Rocco and Arrigo Sacchi, who have two each. Coincidentally it was Sacchi who coached Ancelotti to his two successes in this competition as a player. Furthermore, German managers have enjoyed plenty of UCL success in recent years, with Jurgen Klopp, Hansi Flick and Thomas Tuchel being the three winners prior to Ancelotti’s success in 2022.

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