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  • Writer's pictureBruin Sports Analytics

How Important are Soccer Managers?

By: Derek Nakagawa and Trent Bellinger



There have been many great soccer players throughout history including Ronaldo, Messi, Maradona, Pele, and the list goes on. But what many fans don’t realize is how important managers are to these winning teams. The manager’s role is to sign new players, coach the practices, create team formations, sub players in and out of the game, and select the players who are going to play the game. However, many fans of the sport sometimes don’t believe that the manager has that big of a role in the team. For this article, we are going to look at one of the best managers in history, Jose Mourinho, and see how much of an impact he has made on the teams he has coached by comparing him to the previous and subsequent managers of those teams. We chose him because he has coached seven teams over the course of over 20 years and is known for being one of the best to do it. Throughout this article, we are going to explore how much of a difference managers can make on a team and if it is their great coaching that makes a team or if it is the players themselves that make the difference.

Performance During League

The first thing that fans look at when judging a manager is their win percentage during the league and how well they perform compared to the other teams. Over the course of 20 years, Mourinho has coached at Porto FC, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Tottenham, and is currently the manager at Roma FC. For the sake of comparing managers equally, we only looked at the teams where the subsequent manager finished their time coaching so we can compare their entire performance with the soccer club evenly. This is why Tottenham and Roma aren’t going to be included in this comparison.

As we can see from the graph above, Jose Mourinho’s win rate has never dropped below 50% which is very impressive over the course of his 20 years of being a manager. Another thing to point out is that for 4 out of the 6 teams, Mourinho finished with a higher win percentage than both the previous and subsequent managers. In addition, all of the subsequent managers after Mourinho had worse win percentages, and for only two of the teams (Inter Milan & Real Madrid) did he perform worse than the previous manager. This comes to show that his performance in the league, on average, was better than the previous and subsequent managers showing that it was his coaching abilities that made the team shine rather than just the players being good. So this begs the question, how well did Mourinho place in each of the leagues that he managed in?

As we can see, he placed first in the league eight out of fifteen seasons that he was a manager at these teams. This is beyond crazy statistics because he placed outside of the top three once in this fifteen-year span. Almost no other manager can claim to have done so well in league performances. The one year that he placed 6th in the league was also the year that they won the Europa League and continued to place 2nd in the league once again. However, how does this compare with the previous and subsequent managers of the club teams?

The above graph depicts the average league finishes for teams that Jose Mourinho has coached, where a lower average league finish is associated with greater success. The graph can be used to establish the effect of Mourinho on the team that he coaches in comparison to other top coaches. Upon viewing the visualization, it can be seen that Mourinho outperformed both the previous and the subsequent manager in this statistic at every club which he coached except for his first job at Porto. It is also evident that Mourinho performed exceptionally well during his season with Inter Milan, having an average league finish of 1st. Mourinho averaged second in the league or better at 5 of the 6 teams that he has coached, with 4 of these being in Europe’s top 4 leagues.

Trophies & Performance In European Competitions

Many clubs hire a manager for the sole purpose of winning trophies, which is one of the main ways to increase club revenue and spending. We will now evaluate Mourinho’s performance in the most important statistic in European soccer: trophies won. We will look at the same teams as above.

The above graph shows the number of trophies won by each manager at the clubs Mourinho coached. Mourinho can be seen to outperform both the previous and subsequent manager in this statistic in 4 out of the 6 clubs that he coached. In terms of trophies won per season, Mourinho is better than both other managers in 5 out of the 6 clubs. Throughout his managerial career thus far, Mourinho has never averaged less than one trophy per season at the clubs that he has coached. In terms of the most important trophies, Mourinho has won 8 league titles and 3 European Championships (2 Champions Leagues and 1 Europa League). All of the previous and subsequent managers combined have won 3 league titles and 1 European Championship. Overall, Mourinho was able to outperform the other managers of the clubs which he coached in terms of trophies won.


Although the players are the ones out on the field competing in these games, it is the manager that is the brains of the operation and lets them play to their full potential. One of the best managers in history, Jose Mourinho proves why a manager makes such a big impact on the team and how important it is to have a great coaching staff to go along with the players. Throughout his career, he never ended a season lower than a 50% win rate, won at least one trophy per season, and never dropped below 6th place in any of the leagues that he managed in. There are few other managers that can claim to have done so, in addition to winning 8 league titles over 15 seasons and 3 European Championship titles.

Jose Mourinho’s outstanding performance proves that the manager of a soccer team can have a large impact on the success of the team. Investing in a world-class manager is clearly a strategy that can be extremely beneficial for soccer teams, increasing their likelihood to win games and trophies. This importance is often overlooked by soccer fans, who attribute a team’s success to the star players on that team. However, a manager that can successfully work with star players and role players is almost always a team’s key to success.




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