The 8 Best Managers at this summer's Euros.
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The 8 Best Managers at this summer's Euros.

11/06/24 11:17

Julian Nagelsmann (Germany)

Preferred formation 4-2-3-1

Games managed: 8

You could make an argument that the home nation has the best manager at the tournament this summer. Nagelsmann’s experience at Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich means he’s managed over 239 games in German football. Something you can be sure he utilised when picking his squad.

Die Mannschaft are third favourites for this year's tournament, and while much of that can be attributed to an excellent squad Nagelsmann has shown at the age of 36 why he is a top manager. Despite failed experiments that saw Kai Havertz start as a left-back, he seems to have his German side ticking with recent victories over France, Greece and the Netherlands. It is expected Germany will go far this summer, however, with only eight games in charge could it be a tournament just too soon for Nagelsmann.

Steve Clarke (Scotland)

Preferred formation: 3-4-2-1

Games managed: 55

Perhaps a surprise entry on this list, Steve Clarke’s back-to-back qualifications at the Euros is a first in Scotland’s history. Clarke has worked as assistant manager to both Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, before being hired full time at West Brom, Reading, Kilmarnock and finally his native Scotland back in 2019. Euro 2020 ended disappointingly for Scotland after exiting at the group stage, but they did manage to hold England to a 0-0 draw at Wembley.

Despite being in a group with Germany, Clarke has seen off some big competition in the qualifiers. Beating Spain at Hampden Park and finishing above Erling Haaland’s Norway with a key victory in Oslo that saw them claim second place in group A. Scott McTominay seems to be Clarke's secret weapon, scoring seven times in those same qualifiers to lead The Tartan Army to Germany. Perhaps Scotland could be a potential dark horse at this year's tournament, Clarke is certainly qualified to exceed expectations.

Zlatko Dalic (Croatia)

Preferred formation: 4-2-3-1

Games managed: 84

Zlatko Dalic is a man you may recognise after his Croatia side made it all the way to the 2018 World Cup final, losing out to France 4-2 on the day. He would almost repeat the World Cup success two years later, but this time exited to Argentina in the semi-finals in Qatar. Second and third place finishes at a World Cup Finals are not easy feats to achieve, and despite his Croatian side exiting in the round of 16 to Spain at the last Euros. You can expect a well drilled and prepared side that could go far in Germany.

Expect to see Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic running the midfield, and £100m Manchester City star Josko Gvardiol marshalling a new-look backline. Despite Croatia being drawn in what has been dubbed as this years ‘Group of Death’ alongside Spain, Italy and Albania it wouldn’t surprise many to see Dalic lead the Vatreni to a comfortable first place finish. He has seven years of experience at the helm and is the most successful coach in the country’s history. Also leading Croatia to a nation's league final in 2023. Despite having a relatively quiet career in club management, he has taken a country with a population of just 3.8m to unchartered heights on the international stage.

Luciano Spalletti (Italy)

Preferred formation 4-3-3

Games managed: 10

One of the most experienced managers at the tournament, Italian Luciano Spalletti has just over 1000 games on record in club football. Most recently winning Napoli’s first Scudetto in 33 years. Appointed in September 2023 as the Azzurri's latest head coach, Spalletti has been in the dugout for ten games so far. Only losing once to England at Wembley in his short tenure.

Replicating the Italians victory at the last euros could not be a harder task, especially given the dramatic difference in the squad. The long-term partnership of Leonardo Bonnuci and Giorgio Chiellini is no more, and it’s a new wave of Italians in Germany this summer.

Question marks have already been raised about Spalletti’s decision to leave out winger Riccardo Orsolini. Favouring Stephan El Shaarawy, a player he previously managed at Roma. He has also left out Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Politano. In February, Spalletti announced he would not let his players play video games. Saying “If modernity is playing the PlayStation until 4am in the morning before a game, modernity is not a good thing. A national team must be a pack of wolves. Players come and play for the national team to win the Euro, not to win Call of Duty.” Could he replicate Spain's success in 2008 and 2012 to be the second manager in history to win back-to-back Euros.

Gareth Southgate (England)

Preferred formation: 4-2-3-1

Games managed: 95

A quarter final appearance in Germany this summer would mark Gareth Southgate’s 100th appearance as England manager. In that time, he has led England to a World Cup Semi Final and the last tournament's Euros finals. With almost eight years in charge and coming so close to glory, this is sure to be Southgate’s last chance with The Three Lions at bringing it home.

It was heartbreak for England as they lost on penalties to Italy at Wembley stadium in 2021, and with the talent at Southgate’s disposal this time around he is more than expected to deliver and end those long years of hurt. Southgate didn’t lose a game in qualification for the tournament, but key injuries to Manchester United Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw could upset a balanced England team this time around. There’s no question that Southgate has improved England, especially with the disappointing previous appointments of Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce. However this tournament is only about one thing, winning.

The former Middlesbrough manager has instilled a calm demeanour and despite leaving star players Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish at home, will look to go that one step further this summer that all England fans dream of. He has been widely criticised for everything from his style of play to selections, but none of that will matter if Harry Kane lifts that trophy.

Ronald Koeman (Netherlands)

Preferred formation: 4-3-3/3-4-3

Games managed: 23 (two stints)

Ronald Koeman returned to the Netherlands in 2023 after two years away from the national team at Barcelona, he previously managed the side between 2018 and 2020. The Netherlands 2022 World Cup campaign ended with a quarter final exit at the hands of Argentina in Qatar, and a surprise round of sixteen exit to the Czech Republic at Euro 2020. Despite having managed 23 games, this will be Koeman’s first international tournament for the iconic team in orange.

With eight wins in his thirteen games back in charge, Koeman’s Dutch side finished second in qualifying behind France. They won six out of eight in the group, the only cause for concern could be that both defeats came at the hands of Les Bleus and they will be facing elite competition this summer. Group D sees them once again face France, joined by Poland and Austria. On paper their side is excellent, with perhaps the best defence at the tournament. It looks to be at the other end where Koeman potentially has an issue, with his leading goal scorers Wout Weghorst, Cody Gakpo and Calvin Stengs combining for just three goals each in the qualifying stages. Questions may be asked on Koeman’s decision to leave striker Joshua Zirkzee at home, with his 12 goals at Bologna being overlooked to accommodate the more experienced Weghorst.

Didier Deschamps (France)

Preferred formation: 4-2-3-1

Games managed: 153

World Cup and Nations league winner Didier Deschamps returns this summer for a sixth international tournament with Les Bleus. The former French Captain has enjoyed one of the most successful periods in French football’s history, leading them to World Cup glory in 2018. This tournament is an opportunity to replicate that success, moving on from a World Cup final loss to Argentina in 2022 and a shock elimination to Switzerland in Euro 2020. Deschamps was also in charge when France reached the finals in 2016, only to be beaten by an extra time goal by Eder which saw Portugal lift the trophy.

Deschamps is one of the few individuals to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach, joining a select group of legends. With a blend of experienced stars and emerging talents, Deschamps’ squad is poised for a strong performance at the upcoming Euros. The team breezed through the qualifying group, winning seven out of eight games and going undefeated as they scored 29 and only conceded three.

The coach has made some big decisions in his time in the dugout, exiling Karim Benzema from 2015-2021 following a blackmail case which involved former teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Also welcoming back N’Golo Kante to this year's squad despite a two year absence and the midfielder currently playing his football in Saudi Arabia. His management of Kylian Mbappe has been excellent however, with the forward scoring 47 times in 79 appearances for the national side. A simply outstanding record.

Roberto Martinez (Portugal)

Preferred formation: 3-4-3

Games managed: 15

Roberto Martinez led Belgium to the top of FIFA’s world rankings, maintaining their position for more than half of his six-year tenure. Despite their consistent dominance, Belgium struggled to make that final leap in major tournaments. They fell to World Cup winners France in the 2018 semi-finals and to European Championship winners Italy in the 2021 quarter-finals. Martinez’s tenure ended on a disappointing note with an embarrassing group-stage exit at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, culminating in a 0-0 draw against Croatia where Romelu Lukaku's post-match frustration symbolised their unfulfilled potential. Now at Portugal, Martinez has the chance to go one step further than he did with Belgium. Portugal boasts an impressive squad, featuring stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, and João Cancelo. His 80 games in charge of Belgium give him international pedigree, and despite not being able to take their golden generation to glory he has another chance with Portugal. However, the pressure is on Martinez to deliver at the upcoming Euros. With Portugal drawn in a relatively simple group, his strategic decisions and ability to adapt will be seen when they face the bigger teams should they qualify for the knockout stages. Martinez has made bold choices, including giving younger talents significant roles, which could be the key to navigating the tournament's demands. Can Martinez's tactical nous and leadership guide Portugal to their second European Championship victory? His extensive experience and innovative approach certainly make him one of the managers to watch this summer.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Patrick McGahren

Writer

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