The longest-serving managers in football history
Very often, we tend to give little importance to the coach. The merits of a victory, especially in big teams, almost always go to the great players and almost never to those on the bench; on the other hand, the faults of a defeat are frequently pointed out precisely to the technicians, who in reality are the only ones who don’t even take the field in the end.
The truth is somewhere in the middle: the coach’s hand is always present in today’s football, both in good and bad times, but it is clear that some technicians can influence the outcome of a race more than others. In fact, it is no coincidence that in recent years there has been a lot of talk about guardiolismo, cholismo, or sarrismo, precisely to indicate the specific type of football a coach plays.
But when things don’t go well, it’s almost “normal” that it’s the coach who pays for everyone; on the other hand, the president certainly cannot change 20 players overnight. And so here come the exemptions, often too quickly. Changing the technical guide usually helps to find the keystone, but it is not said that it is always the right choice.
Hence, being able to sit on the same bench for several consecutive seasons is far from simple in Europe. One example is “Cholo” Diego Simeone, the longest-serving coach currently in charge: he has been on the bench of Atletico Madrid since December 2011, but now he is in danger of being fired after Atletico’s early elimination from the Champions League.
But who are the longest-serving coaches in football history? Let’s see now this special ranking considering only the coaches who have remained consecutively on the same bench among the top 5 European leagues (the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1).
Guy Roux (Auxerre, Ligue 1): 1 July 1961–30 June 2000
The longest-lived coach in history is Guy Roux, the historic French coach, symbol, and flag of Auxerre for at least two generations. His bond with Auxerre began as a footballer in 1952, only to have him hang up his boots and decide to start coaching. The coach was made official in July 1961 and remained for as long as 39 years—until the new millennium. Initially, the team was semi-professional, but with him, it literally blossomed: a national cup final in 1979, promotion to Ligue 1 the following year, and even victory in the French top division in 1996. There are therefore 878 matches for the coach with Auxerre, for an average point score of 1.57. A small clarification: Guy Roux then returned to the Auxerre bench for a second experience from 2001 to 2005, for a total of 44 years with the same club.
Alex Ferguson (Manchester United, Premier League): 6 November 1986–30 June 2013
According to many, he is the greatest coach in history. Of course, it is for Manchester United, who welcomed him as a young man back in November 1986 and never would have imagined greeting him 27 years later and with a statue outside Old Trafford in his honor. With numbers in hand, however, the Scottish coach is the most successful in the history of the Premier League. Many national and international trophies and titles have followed him to the Red Devils bench. Alex Ferguson, who has also deservedly earned the nickname “Sir” over the years, has won practically everything with Manchester United, making them a world power like never before. In England, the coach has even collected 1368 games for an average of 2.04 points. He left in June 2013, but he still remains within the club as a member of the board.
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal, Premier League): 1 October 1996–30 June 2018
Just behind him is his great friend and rival, Arsene Wenger. A French manager who grew up in Monaco, he also joined the Premier League in October 1996, when Ferguson was at the height of his United adventure. Wenger was on the Arsenal bench for 22 years, giving his fans irrepressible joy. In fact, it was with him that the true “Invincibles” team was born, that amazing formation led by Thierry Henry that seemed unbeatable in the 2004–05 and 2005–06 seasons. Wenger brought national championships and cups to London on the Gunners’ side while also taking away the satisfaction of reaching the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history (they lost in 2006 against Barcelona). Wenger managed Arsenal for an impressive 1,228 games, collecting a point average of 1.95—almost as good as Sir Alex’s.
Vittorio Pozzo (Italian National Team): 1 December 1929–5 August 1948
A small exception to this special classification must be made for Vittorio Pozzo. With nearly 20 years as Italy’s coach, the late Italian manager is the longest-serving manager on the bench of a senior men’s national team. He is a historic coach and, obviously, one of the very first legends of our sport. He had already coached club teams such as Turin and Milan, but it was on the “Azzurri” bench that he became truly famous: after his presence at the Olympics, Vittorio Pozzo was made official coach in December 1929 and remained there until after the Second World War. With him at the helm, the Italian national team won its first two World Cups: in 1934 in Italy and in 1938 in France. Considered a pioneer in introducing game tactics, he is the coach who invented pre-match training camps. Pozzo has appeared in 87 games for Italy, averaging 2.25 points per game.
Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid, La Liga): 23 December 2011–today
As mentioned, Simeone is the longest-serving coach of all. To his credit, the Argentine coach has been on the Atletico Madrid bench for over ten years. In fact, before his arrival, the Colchoneros were only Real Madrid’s rivals, but since the 2011/12 season, they have become something else: with him at the helm, the Spanish championships, national cups, and even European cups have arrived. Furthermore, Atletico Madrid has come very close to achieving the dream of winning the Champions League on two occasions, but Blancos has been a real cold shower on both occasions—first in extra time and then on penalties. At the moment, the “Cholo” has totaled 597 benches with the Colchoneros, for an average of 1.99 points. Today Simeone is risking a lot, but to resist so much on such an important bench, you really need a special character.