Which football legends will be the next generation of top managers?

They were legends as players, but now Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Raul and Robbie Fowler are in VERY humble surroundings as managers… so can they and these other fledgling bosses reach the summit again?

  • Wayne Rooney is in the running to become the new Derby County manager 
  • Xabi Alonso is showing promise at Real Sociedad’s B team in Spain’s third tier 
  • Other former stars such as Xavi and John Terry are developing as coaches
  • Sportsmail looks at which great players are now trying to step up into managing

Xabi Alonso appears to be taking inspiration from Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane by starting his managerial career lower down the football pyramid. Like Zidane he was a Real legend yet has taken his first job way down the ladder, at Real Sociedad B. 

Wayne Rooney is also set to be the latest football legend to jump into the managerial hotseat at a club a little less prestigious than he was used to at his peak, as he takes interim charge at Derby County following the sacking of Phillip Cocu. 

But Derby is more glamorous than the far-flung footballing outposts that some other former stars have found themselves while trying to earn their stripes in the dugout…

Xabi Alonso has started his managerial career in a rather unlikely spot – with Real Sociedad B

Wayne Rooney is another legend set to make the move into management at Derby 

Xabi Alonso

A midfield conductor at the heart of elite teams such as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich during his playing days, Xabi Alonso was always going to be a manager after retirement. 

The World Cup winner with Spain has worked under top managers such as Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti during his career, with Alonso even doing a football management Masters under the former in Germany’s top-flight. 

Alonso (left) is embarking on a title challenge with Real Sociedad B in Spain’s third tier

The former Liverpool midfielder (left) has learned from the likes of Pep Guardiola (right)

Alonso’s start to managerial life has been nothing short of spectacular, with the 38-year-old in charge of Real Sociedad’s B team who are trying to gain promotion into Spain’s second tier this season.

The Sociedad reserves, where Alonso began his career over 20 years ago, are sitting in third place, one point behind the league leaders with a game in hand. 

If Alonso manages to achieve promotion with his boyhood club, then it won’t be long until he either secures the first-team role at Sociedad or another top team takes a punt on the former Liverpool man. 

Wayne Rooney

It is no surprise that the Premier League, Champions League and Club World Cup winner is looking to use his experience to add wisdom to other sides. 

Former England and Manchester United captain Rooney announced his intentions to move into management when he accepted a player-coach role at Derby County in January 2020. 

Rooney has been in a player-coach role at Derby County since January, and could now step up

Now Phillip Cocu has been sacked as Rams boss after a terrible start to the season, Rooney is now in place as interim boss and is ready to stake a claim for the hotseat full-time.

The 35-year-old will run Derby training this week alongside Shay Given, Liam Rosenior and Justin Walker for Saturday’s Championship clash with Bristol City. 

If Rooney impresses the Derby hierarchy in his debut week one of the senior coaches, he could end up bagging the role. 

He must impress prospective new owner Sheik Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan – a cousin of Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour – who is expected to complete his £60million takeover in the coming days.

England and Manchester United’s record goalscorer has won everything to win at club level

Xavi Hernandez

Like Xabi Alonso, the way Xavi Hernandez dominated the midfield with Barcelona and Spain during his playing days was an early indication that the Champions League and World Cup winner was destined for management. 

After leaving Barcelona in 2015, Xavi moved to Al-Sadd to finish his playing days and begin his coaching qualifications in Qatar. The former midfielder was then appointed as the club’s head coach in 2019 and won three domestic competitions last season and reached the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League in the same season. 

Xavi Hernandez (above) is winning domestic titles with Al-Sadd in the Qatari top flight

In the summer of 2020, Xavi was reportedly offered the chance to take over as Barcelona head coach but the club legend believed it was too early in his managerial career to take such a role. 

The job went to Ronald Koeman, while Xavi opted to stay at Al-Sadd and the Qatari side are now top of their domestic league following an unbeaten start to the 2020-21 season. 

It will not be long, however, until Barcelona come back again for Xavi’s services. 

The Spaniard was reportedly offered the Barcelona manager’s role this year but rejected it

Vincent Kompany

Former Manchester City captain Kompany left the Etihad Stadium in 2019 to become the player-manager at Anderlecht as the defender moved back to his boyhood club to begin his coaching career.

Matters in the dual role at Anderlecht did not get off to the best of starts for the Belgian, who temporarily stood down from managerial duties to focus on being a player.

Vincent Kompany (above) is now fully settled into his manager’s role at Anderlecht in Belgium

After one season playing back in Belgium, Kompany retired as a player and took on the manager’s role. Following a mid-table finish last term, Anderlecht are showing signs of revival under Kompany’s full-time stewardship and have just lost once in the league all season. 

Kompany showed his superb leadership qualities at City and if he can take that into his coaching career, he will go back to being at the highest level of football.   

The former defender’s leadership skills shown at Manchester City will be useful in the dugout

John Terry

The former Chelsea captain and club legend left Stamford Bridge in 2017 to join Aston Villa, where the defender played one more season before becoming the Midlands club’s assistant manager. 

Since then, Terry has helped Dean Smith in not only getting Villa to the Premier League but keeping them in it – and there’s even quiet chatter about a potential European challenge this season. 

John Terry (above) is making a difference in his assistant coaching role at Aston Villa 

Yet while the former England captain is happy and comfortable at Villa, Terry is one of several assistants at Villa Park. 

Head coach Smith also has Richard O’Kelly – who he had with him at Brentford and Walsall – and fellow Villa supporter Craig Shakespeare, formerly of Leicester City and Watford. 

Terry has been linked to the vacant Derby position and could pip his former international team-mate Wayne Rooney to the role. It is also believed that Villa would not stand in Terry’s way if he chooses to go through with his desire to be a No 1.  

Terry (left) is one of several assistants at Villa and could be persuaded to take a No 1 job

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

The former Arsenal, Barcelona and Holland left back already has significant experience managing in Europe’s top leagues, but there is the feeling that Van Bronckhorst has not yet reached his full potential. 

The 45-year-old was appointed as the manager of Feyenoord in 2015 after four years as assistant coach and led his side to the Eredivisie title in 2017, and also won two Dutch Cup trophies in either side of the league achievement. 

Gio van Bronckhorst (left) was tutored by Guardiola at Manchester City last season

But after leaving the Dutch club in 2019, Van Bronckhorst was reportedly given behind-the-scenes access to life at Manchester City and was learning from Pep Guardiola for most of last season.

In January this year, the Dutchman accepted a head coach role at Chinese side Guangzhou R&F – where he is currently working today – but there is a general feeling that there is more to come from the former Arsenal and Barcelona full back.

The former Dutch full back is now managing Chinese side Guangzhou P&R

Henrik Larsson 

One minute you’re about to join Southend, the next you’re part of the coaching staff at Barcelona. That’s the crazy life of Henrik Larsson in a nutshell. 

The Swedish forward dazzled fans at the likes of Celtic, Barcelona and even Manchester United for a short stint and now the 49-year-old is trying his hand at management. 

Larsson has enjoyed several stints managing Swedish teams over the past decade, including two spells at former club Helsingborgs, but was very close to joining a side in the Football League.

Henrik Larsson is continuing his coaching development as Barcelona’s assistant coach

The former forward was set to sign on the dotted line at Southend, but pulled out when his soon-to-be assistant Tommy Johnson accepted an offer elsewhere. 

Larsson may be looking at that with a huge sigh of relief, as the Swede is now an assistant coach to Ronald Koeman at Barcelona. With Koeman’s job far from secure after a dodgy start, could Larsson be given the No 1 job soon? 

John O’Shea 

After retiring from football following a short spell at Reading, former Manchester United and Sunderland defender O’Shea joined the Royals as a first-team coach under manager Jose Gomes and the 39-year-old has kept his role under new boss Veljko Paunovic.

Former defender John O’Shea’s current job is the role of Reading first-team coach

With his help, Reading have started the season brightly and currently lead the Championship despite three consecutive defeats. 

And if the Royals continue their start to the season in England’s second tier, then it may only a matter of time before the five-time Premier League and Champions League winner gets a big job of his own.  

Ruud van Nistelrooy

The former Dutch striker may be just 44 years of age, but Ruud van Nistelrooy already has a healthy CV of coaching experience under his belt. 

Soon after retiring follow his spell in Spain with Malaga, the Dutchman became a coaching intern at former club PSV Eindhoven, helping the strikers in the under-17s, under-19s and reserve team.

In 2014, Van Nistelrooy was then appointed as Holland’s assistant coach for the 2014 World Cup alongside Guus Hiddink. After two years in the role, Van Nistelrooy left during Danny Blind’s spell in charge of the national team, but was reappointed by Ronald Koeman last year. 

Ruud van Nistelrooy (right) has a great deal of coaching experience with PSV and Holland

A year before rejoining the Holland national team set-up, the former striker was named the PSV Eindhoven under-19s manager as a replacement for Mark van Bommel, who was named first-team manager.

If the Eindhoven vacancy becomes available once again, then Van Nistelrooy’s name will be put in the ring – which could be the start of a memorable journey in senior management. 

Robin van Persie 

He only retired a year ago, but Robin van Persie has been thrown straight into the deep end as a coach. 

Last May, the 37-year-old was appointed as the Feyenoord assistant coach to legendary Dutch coach Dick Advocaat, who the former striker will be learning off as he begins his first steps into management. 

Robin van Persie is currently working as the assistant coach at former club Feyenoord

Like many former strikers, Van Persie’s main role is to help the strikers with their finishing, which is good delegation by Advocaat given van Persie scored 273 goals in 593 career matches, including for Arsenal and Manchester United.

The work is paying off too, with Feyenoord the third-highest scorers in the Dutch top-flight, behind only Ajax and Twente. With Van Persie taking on such a big role at just 37 years of age, it won’t be too long until he is given an offer to take a manager’s role. 

Thierry Henry

His playing career couldn’t have gone much better – an Invincible with Arsenal, Champions League winner with Barcelona and world champion with France; but his managerial career couldn’t have got off to a worse start – sacked by Monaco after just three months in charge.

Henry now finds himself trying to build his managerial reputation at Montreal Impact in Canada. And one rousing speech he gave his players before their season-defining MLS match against DC United last Sunday will certainly help.

In a behind-the-scenes video, the Arsenal and France legend was seen urging his players to ‘erase everything’ ahead of a game that his side needed to win to book their place in the 2020 MLS play-offs.

Despite going behind, Montreal then came back to secure victory – and an post-season MLS Cup spot – with an 88th minute winner. They next face New England on Friday night.

Thierry Henry was filmed giving his Montreal Impact players a rousing speech recently

Jaap Stam 

Another Premier League legend trying to turn around his managerial reputation in the MLS is Jaap Stam, who is now FC Cincinnati boss.

Perhaps the greatest defender to play during Sir Alex Ferguson’s entire reign at Manchester United, Stam has struggled to reach such heights in his coaching career.

He took Reading to the Championship play-offs with bold possession-based tactics but that spell soon unravelled and after stints back in the Netherlands at Zwolle and Feyenoord, Stam headed to the States. Cincinatti, however, finished bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference this season.

Jaap Stam has gone from legendary defender to struggling boss at FC Cincinnati

Robbie Fowler 

The man hailed as ‘God’ by the Kop has admitted that his happy-go-lucky persona as a player has led to him struggling to be taken seriously as a manager.

Seventh on the list of all-time top Premier League scorers, Fowler remains a deity at Liverpool yet cannot get a look-in when it comes to a managerial role among England’s elite.

That has forced him to travel to some far-flung places to take charge, from Muanthong United in Thailand to Brisbane Roar in Australia, and now East Bengal in India.  

Robbie Fowler is now in charge at East Bengal (left), while Real Madrid legend Raul is earning his stripes at the club’s B team, Castilla (right)


Surely taking inspiration from Zidane, Raul, who was the homegrown darling of the Bernabeu throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, is now in charge of Real Madrid’s B team, Castilla. 

A six-time La Liga and three-times Champions League winner, Raul took charge of Castilla in June last year after nearly a year in charge of Real’s under-15s.

Zidane spent two years at Castilla before jumping into perhaps the biggest job in world football – and Pep Guardiola did similar over at rivals Barcelona – so Raul could be destined for big things. 

Amid Real’s early-season struggles, his name was already mentioned as a ready-made replacement for Zidane, should Florentino Perez pull the trigger on his head coach.

Hernan Crespo

River Plate, Parma, Lazio, Inter, Chelsea, AC Milan, Defensa y Justicia… Hernan Crespo’s clubs read like a who’s who of great football clubs. Well, all except the last one.

A deadly striker during his playing days, Crespo is back in his native Argentina trying to forge a career as manager, and he is in charge of a team that most football fans across the world will never have heard of.

Defenca y Justicia have a formidable sounding name but a less than impressive history, having never won the Argentine Primera Division. He currently has them sat third in Group B behind Colon and storied Independiente.

Hernan Crespo strides the touchline as head coach of Defensa y Justicia in Argentina

P.S. Moritz Volz 

Former right back Moritz Volz did not have the best career in the Premier League. 

The German failed to make a league appearance at Arsenal, struggled on loan at Wimbledon, salvaged some sort of a career at Fulham but fell flat at another loan at Ipswich Town in the Championship.

His coaching career, on the other hand, is faring a lot better. The 37-year-old is an assistant coach to Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig, with some even claiming that Volz’s influence is a great help to the young manager’s growing philosophy. 

Whether Volz follows Nagelsmann around or has a managerial career of his own, the German is certainly one to look out for in the years to come. 

Ex-Fulham defender Moritz Volz is now Julian Nagelsmann’s assistant coach at RB Leipzig 


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