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The World-Class Foreign Managers Who Failed in the Premier League

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A few world-class foreign managers have had disappointing spells while taking charge of the Premier League teams.

The Premier League has been tipped as the best and most competitive one in the world, especially since the 2000s onward. Naturally, it attracts not only the players but also the managers. It is one major league they must conquer to raise their profile. Some top figures from abroad have proven their success, such as Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp, and last but not least, Jose Mourinho. 

Unfortunately, not all see the same ending as them. One of them this season is surely Erik Ten Hag. He was highly recommended by the caretaker, Ralf Ragnick, who went through a transitional period in Old Trafford. The Dutch boss was known for his remarkable stint with Ajax Amsterdam. He was the one who managed to guide Frankie de Jong and Co to the Champions League semifinal in 2019 with certainly several customary Eredivisie titles.

However, such does not seem to be enough despite his fairly fine campaign in his debut last season, which resulted in the EFL League Cup trophy and a top-four finish. It was already the peak of Ten Hag’s time in Manchester, instead of their new beginning. With all due respect, the Premier League is on another level compared to the Dutch top flight, as United is doomed to miss the European competition next season. Ten Hag’s tenure is now closer to an end instead of going to the next chapter. His departure could be the best solution for Marcus Rashford and Co. The new manager must be a better figure so that are in high demand again in all competitions. 

Ten Hag is certainly not the first to have experienced such a dark moment as well as embarrassing days in his managerial career. Here are the other three world-class foreign managers who did not succeed during their time in England.

Louis Van Gaal (Manchester United)

The Dutch boss had a reputation for winning silverware at every club he worked for. Van Gaal clinched domestic league titles for Ajax Amsterdam (three times), Barcelona (twice), Bayern Munich, and even AZ Alkmaar, with one title each. The former Telstar man also lifted the continental trophy twice: the UEFA Cup in 1992 and the Champions League in 1995. Both were for the Amsterdamers. In addition, he guided Die Roten to the Champions League final in 2010 before suffering to Inter Milan, led by his former understudy during his time in Barcelona, Jose Mourinho. Van Gaal had also been in charge of the Netherlands national team in three different stints, and reaching third place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup was his best achievement with De Oranje.

Unfortunately, such promise, success, and high reputation in his previous clubs could not be well translated into the Premier League. He was named Manchester United boss in the summer of 2014 and stayed for two years. His only silverware was the FA Cup in 2016. David de Gea and Co. only managed to finish fourth in Van Gaal’s first season and fifth in the following campaign, which meant that they missed out Champions League spot. What’s more, he was criticised for being unable to bring out the best in his squad despite the management’s support in the transfer window. It only adds up to another piece of evidence to demonstrate how challenging it is to compete and keep one’s job in the dugout. The FA Cup was certainly not enough for a gaffer of his calibre.

Sven Goran Eriksson (Manchester City)

The former Three Lions boss in the early 2000s had a great reputation as one of the world-class managers at that time. He had been at the helm of big teams in Portugal, with Benfica, and in Italy, with Sampdoria and Lazio.

Erikson had won several domestic cups and league titles for Benfica and Lazio, plus another one for Sampdoria and AS Roma each. The Swedish boss also won several continental titles, including the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup 1999 with Biancoceleste, the UEFA Cup 1982 for IFK Goteborg, and led Benfica to advance to the UEFA Cup final in 1983 and the European Cup (the old name of the Champions League) in 1990.

With such accolades, no wonder that Manchester City was hoping that he could guide them to at least the top four and qualify for the UCL. Sadly, he might have never played for English teams. His failure to bring David Beckham and Co. to end England’s title drought since 1966 during his spell from 2001 to 2006 haunted him. The Citizens under Eriksson only finished ninth on the table. The former Mexico and Ivory Coast manager even hit the reef again in his second attempt with Leicester City in 2010. The Foxes were only competing in the championship at that time, and they only finished 10th in the final standings, missing out on promotion to the top flight. 

Louis Felipe Scolari (Chelsea)

The Brazilian gaffer was well known for his international success with the Brazil and Portugal national teams before he arrived in England. He guided the former to their last World Cup title in 2002 and brought the latter to the Euro 2004 final, their first ever in major tournaments, before shockingly losing to Greece. The former Atletico Mineiro boss was also a Copa Libertadores winner twice, with Gremio in 1995 and Palmeiras in 1999. 

Scolari was appointed to be at the helm of Chelsea after their loss in the 2008 Champions League final. The Blues were hoping he was the right figure to get back to the top after their trophyless season under Avram Grant. Unfortunately, he did not meet expectations despite his team’s flying start. The disagreement with the management eventually led to his dismissal, only seven months after his appointment at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea only sat fourth when he left. 

However, unlike Van Gaal and Eriksson, Scolari was not short of interest after his dismal stint in England. He returned to Palmeiras in 2010 and won a league title in 2012. He was named Selecao boss again for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and guided them to the semifinals, despite the 7-1 rout versus Germany. The former defender was even able to lead Atletico Paranaense to the Copa Libertadores final in 2022 before losing to Flamengo.