Champions League last 16
The Champions League round of 16 kicks off Tuesday with 16 teams and their managers left in the competition, four of which, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Di Matteo, have won the cup before. The other 12 have not. If Real Madrid managed to win it again, Ancelotti would move up to four European Cups, becoming the new number one and leaving behind Liverpool’s Bob Paisley at three. Even reaching the final would see the Italian do so for the fifth time, which would give him another record: he currently shares four finals with Sir Alex Ferguson and Miguel Munoz. By winning, Ancelotti would also become the first person to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era. The last time a team managed to win back-to-back Champions Leagues was AC Milan in 1990, who were managed by Arrigo Sacchi but in which Ancelotti was a player.
A win for Bayern Munich would move Guardiola alongside Paisley and Ancelotti with three wins. He’d also become the sixth manager to win European Cups with two different teams, after Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Ernst Happel and Mourinho. Given that he will only be 44 years old in May, eight years younger than Mourinho, 12 younger than Ancelotti, the Spaniard would become one of the most precocious managers ever.
Mourinho too, would move to the top rung of European Cup winning managers if Chelsea go all the way. The added bonus for his record would be that if he did manage to win, it would be with three different clubs, Porto, Inter and his present club Chelsea, which would be something that nobody has ever achieved.
It is easy to forget that Di Matteo, the present Schalke boss, also has a European Cup under his belt, which he won three years ago with Chelsea. A record in itself as that was the only Champions League won by the Blues or any other London club for that matter. Obviously, Schalke aren’t amongst the favourites this year, but then again neither were Chelsea in 2011-12. If the German side somehow managed to win, he’d be the first to do it twice as a midseason replacement.
Each of the above mentioned managers would make history with another win, but which one deserves it more? They all epitomize a different type of football manager but they all are the expression of the modern and globalized game that football has become. Ancelotti spent his playing career and early managerial years in Italy, but since 2009 he has worked abroad in England, France and now Spain, always managing a multinational team. Guardiola is a Catalan who ended his playing career in Italy, Qatar and Mexico but got his coaching debut at Barcelona and won plenty of silverware there. Mourinho began his career with four years as an assistant at Barcelona, before moving back to Portugal, with spells in the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga before returning to Chelsea. Di Matteo was born and raised in Switzerland but played in Italy and England before becoming manager in three different tiers of the English game. Now he’s in Germany, which is a natural fit, given that German is his first language and one of four he speaks fluently.
Few can argue that there are many dividing factors between these four manager, be it the style of football their teams play and their approach when dealing with the press, but few can argue with the fact they are all winners. The best football tipster in the world would not forget to tip “outsiders” Barcelona though, they might have an inexperienced manager but with a striking partnership of the likes of Neymar, Messi and Suarez, they are a team that should not be underestimated.