Six footballers who are currently managing a club they played for

It’s very common to see players turned managers at the helm of clubs they played for. In fact, three clubs in the Premier League, five clubs in the Serie A and seven clubs each in the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 are managed by former players. We’ve picked out six of them in charge of high-profile clubs.


Thierry Henry was appointed the manager of Monaco only on 11 October 2018 and in the process, he became one of the very few footballers who started their managerial career with the same club they made their professional debut.

Henry played 141 games for Monaco, scored 28 goals and won the league title in 1997 before moving abroad. After an illustrious playing career, he became a television pundit but his passion was in management and he was Belgium’s assistant manager before he took up the Monaco job.

The 41-year-old lost his first game as manager and drew the second one. Maybe, third time’s the charm.


Gennaro Gattuso spent thirteen seasons of his playing career with AC Milan during which he played 468 games and won 10 trophies including two Champions League titles. The Italian midfielder who is known for his unforgiving nature became a manager in 2013 with Swiss club Sion.

Including Sion, he managed four clubs with very little success before he was surprisingly named the AC Milan manager in November 2017. There was a small turn around in Milan’s fortunes under Gattuso and they finished the 2017/18 season in sixth and qualified for the Europa League. In April 2018, he also signed a contract extension with the club.

However, his job is under threat after Milan’s poor start in the ongoing season despite making some high-profile signings in the summer. Milan is currently 12th in the league after eight games with only 12 points. They also lost their recent Europa League match at home to Real Betis.

NIKO KOVAC (Bayern Munich)

Niko Kovac’s final game in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt was the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich which his team won 3-1. After leaving Frankfurt, he took over as manager of Bayer Munich, the club he represented in 51 games and won three trophies with.

Kovac started his stint as Bayern manager with a 5-0 win over his former club in the DFL-Supercup. His side went on a seven-game winning streak across four competitions but it was followed by four games without a win. The club picked up one point in three league games, lost two of those games without scoring and conceded five goals. One of those defeats was a 3-0 hiding at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach in a home match. They were also thoroughly outplayed by Ajax at home in a game that ended 1-1.

The poor run of form and speculations in the media about an unrest in the squad has put his job under immense scrutiny already.  


Ernesto Valverde is only the second person in history to play for and manage both Barcelona and Espanyol. Valverde was named the Barcelona manager before the 2017/18 season and he won the domestic double in his first season with the club. The club almost went the entire league season undefeated and lost only five games across all competitions.

Valverde, who represented Barcelona as a player for two seasons, has been under immense pressure recently despite a good first season with the club. A section of the fans is unhappy with his pragmatic approach as they’ve been spoilt with free-flowing attacking football for over a decade. In addition, his treatment of players like Ousmane Dembele and Malcom have also been a subject of discussion.

Barcelona went four games without a win this season in the league despite which they are top of the table. They have also won all three of their Champions League games in a tough group with Spurs, Inter Milan and PSV. His approach can be questioned but he is definitely getting the results to back it up.


The year 2018 was supposed to be a great one for Julen Lopetegui. Instead, things have gone from bad to worse. He was supposed to lead Spain to World Cup glory in the summer but he was sacked as manager two days before the tournament started as he was named the next Real Madrid manager in an untimely manner.

At Real Madrid, he started his stint with a defeat to rivals Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup but followed it up with some good results. However, Real Madrid has picked up only five points in their last six league games and find themselves in the seventh position. In addition, they suffered a shock defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

Lopetegui’s playing career with Real Madrid was not memorable as he played one league game in two seasons after serving as the backup goalkeeper. Now that there is a huge possibility of him losing his job after the El Clasico, his playing career with Real Madrid won’t look as bad.

DIEGO SIMEONE (Atletico Madrid)

All three managers in charge of La Liga’s three biggest clubs represented the club they’re presently managing as a player but Diego Simeone had the most successful playing career amongst them. 

Diego Simeone has been Atletico Madrid’s manager since December 2011 and since he was appointed, he has made them a force to reckon with. After 391 games, he has a win percentage of 61.38 which is not as important as the fact that he has won them seven trophies including a league title in 2013/14.

Simeone also won the league title with Atletico Madrid as a player in 1996 and the club also won the Copa del Rey that season. As a player, he was with Atletico Madrid for three seasons and racked up 27 goals in 126 games from a defensive midfield position. During the domestic double winning season of 1995/96, he scored 12 goals in 45 games.


Honourable mentions – Eddie Howe (Bournemouth), Mark Hughes (Southampton), Bruno Genesio (Lyon), Simeone Inzaghi (Lazio), Eusebio Di Francesco (Roma)