Ten Hag sack: 10 other managers who lost their jobs straight after winning trophies

Dave Tickner
Louis van Gaal and Antonio Conte were also sacked after winning trophies.
Louis van Gaal and Antonio Conte were also sacked after winning trophies.

Supposed to be a topical top 10, this, but sometimes it’s hard to find anything going on in the football news cycle to use as a hook. So for no real reason, here’s a list of 10 managers who lost their jobs despite winning a trophy just before it happened.

Don’t be looking for deeper meaning here. There isn’t any. And there definitely isn’t a clue in one of these people being a Dutch former Ajax manager who lost his job at Manchester United despite a fluky run to FA Cup success.


Antonio Conte, Chelsea
Perhaps the most notable recent example from Our League – the one that matters – because Conte was by any sane measure enormously successful at Chelsea yet so complete was the breakdown of the relationship that there really was nothing to be done to salvage it.

Won the title in imperious fashion in his very first season before the recriminations and infighting kicked in. Would he be so angry all the time if he just acknowledged his baldness? Not for us to say.

But he is an angry man, and in his second season it all went wrong. Chelsea’s league form collapsed in what we now see in hindsight as the start of the Guardiola era of utter dominance and they finished only fifth, 30 points off the absurd pace set by City.

But through the squabbling and unpleasantness, Conte did still manage to steer his side to the FA Cup before huffing off into the sunset.


Louis van Gaal, Manchester United
The most obvious warning from history for Erik Ten Hag comes from the tale of a former Ajax manager for whom FA Cup glory with Manchester United couldn’t sufficiently paper the cracks from a wretched league season which saw them fail to even muster a challenge despite it being the Leicester Season.

Did win what might go down as the least impressive FA Cup of all time, concluding in a final far more famous for the antics of the losing manager than anything the winning side did. Sorry for reminding you of the Pardew Dance, but there it is.

This latest Man United FA Cup run has had its mortifying moments, but they did – somehow – beat Liverpool and City along the way. In 2016, Van Gaal’s United beat Sheffield United, Derby, Shrewsbury, West Ham (after a replay), Everton and Crystal Palace. And only Shrewsbury were beaten halfway convincingly.

It never felt likely to be enough, and two days later Van Gaal had gone. It’s already been three days, so Ten Hag has won that battle.

Laurent Blanc, PSG
One thing getting the Spanish archer after sneaking a cup win in an otherwise miserable season, quite another to find yourself out of a job after winning the league. And all the cups. Again.

Blanc spent three years as Paris St-Germain manager after Carlo Ancelotti left for Madrid. He won eight of the nine domestic trophies available to him, completing his second domestic treble in his third and final season in the sure and certain knowledge that it wouldn’t be enough because they went out of the Champions League at the unacceptably early quarter-final stage.

This was really the point at which PSG entered their current phrase of futility, in which no amount of domestic pots and pans – which continue to arrive in vast yet dreary numbers – could make up for the absence of a single Champions League. That remains as elusive as ever, with five more managers since Blanc charged with the apparently impossible task of ending that wait. Including…


Mauricio Pochettino, PSG
Poch bided his time after the collapse of everything he’d patiently and in the circumstances heroically built at Tottenham following the 2019 Champions League final defeat, eventually making as Harry Kane-esque move to a club that didn’t really seem like a fit but would at least allow him to hoover up some CV-bolstering trophies. Unlike Kane, Pochettino did at least manage that but there was never really any air of permanence or more importantly authority as Poch tried to impose his philosophy on a club where star players held and hold all the power.

Arrived halfway through an unsalvageable 2020/21 season in which he couldn’t even win the league but did manage it in his first and only full season in charge of a club that had changed a lot since his days as a player there alongside Ronaldinho and Mikel Arteta in the early years of the 21st century.

Didn’t do him any good, though, and by early July he was just another victim of PSG’s Champions League obsession. Like…


Christophe Galtier, PSG
Quickly becomes apparent with this feature that certain clubs are absolute bankers for this particular brand of caper, and it’s no surprise that your modern-day, Champions League-obsessed and irrelevantly Ligue 1-dominating PSG are among them.

It’s the by now familiar story with Galtier: won Ligue 1 – albeit by only a single point from Lens – but was already doomed by that point having finished only second in their Champions League group and being comfortably beaten in the last 16 by Bayern Munich.


Maurizio Sarri, Juventus
Sarri is, even by Italian standards, a well-travelled manager who rarely stays in one place for long and even more rarely stays out of work for any length of time. A chain-smoking chain-manager. Won the Europa League in his one ill-tempered season as Chelsea manager but that doesn’t quite qualify here because he was leaving of his own volition to return to Italy and take over at Juventus.

But that gig does tick the box for us. Sarri won his first Serie A title in his only season at Juventus, becoming the oldest manager to do so, but it was a familiar story: failure to go beyond the last 16 of the Covid-delayed Champions League saw him out of a job. Juventus’ ninth straight league title was never going to be enough, but it’s nevertheless fun to note that they’ve not managed to win one since.


Max Allegri, Juventus
And Sarri himself took over from Allegri, who left Juventus after not just one Serie A title but five straight Serie A titles but, crucially, diminishing Champions League returns. Again, like Sarri’s meaningless league title, a couple of quarter-final exits don’t look too bad now given what’s followed.

Allegri gets bonus points for getting sacked after trophy success not once but twice and at the same club. After returning to Juventus in 2021, Allegri hasn’t manage to restore Juve’s Serie A dominance but did this season manage to win Coppa Italia and then get immediately sacked, largely because of his antics during and after that final. Which is quite a flex.


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Jupp Heynckes, Real Madrid
PSG and Juventus have been our friends in this feature, but Real Madrid are the absolute daddies of unacceptable, manager-terminating success. Jupp Heynckes’ tale is an interesting one, because it reflects the shifting priorities.

Generally, the story for these daft entitled clubs is domestic success being waved away and dismissed as a mere trifle for managers who have failed miserably to win the Champions League at the first/only time of asking and must therefore be replaced by the next poor sod.

Back in the 90s, it was all arse-backwards for Heynckes, who led his Real Madrid team to victory in the 1998 Champions League final – Real’s first European crown since 1966 – but paid the price for poor domestic form. Madrid finished only fourth, behind Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad in a wild La Liga season which saw Barca crowned champions despite suffering 10 defeats and managing a mere 74 points.


Vicente Del Bosque, Real Madrid
After winning five La Liga titles as a player and serving a couple of caretaker stints as manager, Del Bosque finally got his big chance in the big chair in 1999 and really started the process of restoring Real Madrid to the glory days that have continued to this day.

His four years in charge came at the height of the Galactico nonsense, yet Del Bosque steered a side over which he had minimal off-field input to two league titles and two Champions Leagues to kickstart their march towards their current absurd total of European titles. Not since the 50s and 60s had Madrid enjoyed such success, but the day after Real Madrid won the 2002/03 league title it was confirmed Del Bosque’s contract would not be renewed.

It came just after the signing of David Beckham, not unanimously greeted with delight around the club, and appeared to confirm the long-standing rumours of a political split at the club, with captain Fernando Hierro also leaving the club that summer.


Fabio Capello, Real Madrid
When Capello returned for his second spell in charge of Real Madrid in 2006, they had failed to win another league title since Del Bosque’s departure. It was an unacceptable drought, clearly.

Capello would put that right, but also so very many noses out of joint that such a long-awaited league title wasn’t enough to save him. The most high-profile of his fallings out came with Beckham, who was in the process of engineering a move to America, and that had a knock-on effect across the squad.

But as well as the internecine feuds were the complaints at Capello’s functional, pragmatic style of play. This was anathema to a club that had just been through the sometimes-successful but always at least entertaining Galactico era. Capello’s view was that he was brought in to restore Madrid to the top rung of Spanish football.

That he did that but still lost his job suggests he wasn’t entirely on top of the brief.