World Football: Top 10 Football Managers Who Employ Mind Games

Ryan Day

No matter where you live and no matter what football club you support, your manager plays mind games.

"Not mine," you might think to yourself. "My club's manager is above mind games. He has a decent enough team, way too much class and not nearly enough time to get wrapped up into silly games."

But if Sir Alex Ferguson, the best (and quite possibly classiest) manager English football has ever known, enjoys toying with opposing managers, players and the media, maybe mind games aren't such a dirty little secret after all.

The truth is, every manager is equal parts psychologist, spokesman and die-hard competitor. Managers are in the unenviable position of having to figure out what makes their players tick, protecting them at times but provoking them at others. They are often times the face of a franchise, having to speak in a way that makes owners and stakeholders happy but also keeping their players proud and hungry.

Mind games are a necessity, at least if you want to do well in today's game. Who are the managers who engage in it the best? Join me as I present to you the top 10 world football managers who employ mind games.

Neil Warnock

The former Queens Park Rangers manager loves to play games with managers, players and referees by venting his frustrations publicly through the media.

Warnock's firestorms include calling referees "bald-headed blokes" and criticizing fellow managers as "a disgrace" for fielding weak teams so as to help out friends.

Most recently he blamed Twitter for getting him fired from QPR.

Gary Megson

Megson, the recently deposed manager at Sheffield Wednesday, loves to puff himself up in public arenas, saying he's "better than most in the Premier League."

This is despite the fact he was just recently sacked by a League One club. Hey, you might know better than I do, Gary.

Or maybe you don't.

Jose Mourinho

I don't know how the manager of Real Madrid does it, but he instills an "us against them" mentality into his players and actually complains in media sessions that he doesn't get enough respect.

He accused Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, among other things, of criticizing referees by saying "he is not happy with refs getting it right ... [he] wants them to get it wrong."

Mourinho also downplays how good his Real Madrid team is, constantly referring to opponents as the better team and stressing his team "are not the favorites."

Harry Redknapp

Harry Redknapp can be an incredibly unlikable manager—except to the FA, of course.

The Tottenham man isn't exactly what you'd call a "player's coach" and has demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to leading clubs since starting at Bournemouth in 1983.

But his recent sparring with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger showed Redknapp's still got what it takes.

When asked if his Spurs could earn a spot in next year's Champions League, Redknapp responded (via ESPN):

"No, it's not out of reach, of course not. I still think we'll finish above Arsenal—bring it on, Arsene!"

Jupp Heynckes

Even though I'm not a fan of Bundesliga football, I got a good laugh when I learned of how Jupp Heynckes likes to employ mind games as manager of Bayern Munich—and how other managers and players just laugh at him in response.

According to, before a match with Borussia Dortmund, Heynckes was reportedly making comments about the pressure of being the Bundesliga's league leader. Borussia saw right through the games, with CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke commenting: "You don't win a game with psychological games. I simply don't believe that their comments will affect us. Our players can't stop laughing about it. This is a completely different generation than those of the past. 

Bayern Munich ended up losing 1-0. After the match, Heynckes said that "Borussia deserved the title."

At least the German manager goes gentle into that good night.

Arsene Wenger

Few banter better than Arsenal's long-time manager Arsene Wenger—and, sadly he says, few even do it anymore.

As the Premier League title race closes up, Wenger has admitted he'd "love it" if he could trade barbs with some fellow managers about the impending league championship.

Maybe Arsenal fans wish he'd "love it" if Arsenal were still in the title race to begin with.

Roberto Mancini

Mancini is your typical Italian—very passionate, very sensitive and very proud. He routinely declines post-match interviews and flat-out refused to shake hands with Stoke City manager Tony Pulis.

In his defense, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said it probably had nothing to do with pride and anger but rather (via the Daily Mail), "he’s just worried he might say something that gets him in hot water."

Right, Ferguson. I'm sure it had nothing to do with pride and anger.

Fabio Capello

The former England manager didn't play mind games with the media as much as he did with his players.

As a national manager, you're given the task of reigning in a lot of different personas. For Capello, the employment of mind games was less about playing tricks on the media or opposition, and more about keeping the heads of players on straight.

For example, reported in January that Capello stated publicly he knew nothing of Andy Carroll's private life of boozing and partying, but it later came out that Capello told the Liverpool man in private to drink less.

Pep Guardiola

Personally, he's my favorite of the coaches who employ mind games because of three things—he talks very funny smack, he can back it up, and he's actually thought of as an underdog in Spain's La Liga. 

In an interview right before Barcelona's 2-1 loss in El Clasico, Guardiola commented (in a joint interview, mind you!) that Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho was "the f**king boss, the f**king man" in the press room and claimed he deserved his own Champions League off the pitch. later reported that Guardiola came back to the hotel Barca players were staying and received a standing ovation from the team.

Sir Alex Ferguson

There's few greater joys in following English soccer than watching Sir Alex Ferguson trade barbs and play mind games with fellow manager Roberto Mancini.

According to, it started with Mancini telling reporters that "he didn't even know United were playing on the night they suffered a 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Wigan."

Ferguson responded shortly thereafter with "I think Roberto Mancini has maybe picked the wrong time to say it. There's still five games to go."

The United manager went on to say:

"We have to put it in a bit of perspective. You drop points in the second half of the season. We have done it most years. There has been an odd year when we have gone on a long run without losing but a couple of years back we lost 4-1 to Liverpool and won the league.You do drop points on the run-in. City and ourselves have both experienced that...The great part of our club is that we do recover, and we have to recover from Wednesday."

The great part of our club, Ferguson? Not City's? You're not referring to City's recent loss to Swansea City or their draw with Sunderland, are you?

Mancini trying to rattle Ferguson's cage. Ferguson doing the same. Almost as good as the game itself.


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