The Best Managers Never to Win the Premier League

Premier League 2018/19 Tactical Analysis Statistics: Newcastle v Liverpool

While it’s widely accepted that Premier League Hall of Fame inductee Steven Gerrard is the best player never to win the EPL title, far less consideration is given to the managers who have failed to achieve this objective.

Incredibly, just 11 managers have lifted the EPL since the tournament’s inception in 1992, with Sir Alex Ferguson claiming a record 13 crowns ahead of PepGuardiola (four), Arsene Wenger (three) and Jose Mourinho (three).

But who exactly are the best managers to have never won the Premier League, and what prevented them from claiming the domestic game’s biggest prize?

#3. Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool)

Despite often being considered as a figure of fun among some supporters (largely due to his Dulux smile and penchant for David Brent-esque management speak), Brendan Rodgers has managed to build quite an impressive managerial career.

From guiding a stylish Swansea side to the Premier League to sweeping all before him in Scotland with Celtic and winning the FA Cup with Leicester (while also regularly challenging for a top four place), Rodgers has built a resume that doesn’t quite tally with how he’s perceived.

It was during his time at Liverpool that Rodgers initially peaked, however, as he took a Luis Suarez-inspired side to the brink of the EPL title.

Winning 11 consecutive during the second half of the 2013/14 season, the Reds’ swashbuckling side moved to the top of the EPL table with just three games to play, before the nerves started to jangle and Jose Mourinho’s villainous Chelsea spoiled the party with a 2-0 win at Anfield.

Because of Steven Gerrard’s now iconic slip during this match and the side’s subsequent implosion at Selhurst Park (they lost a 3-0 lead and drew 3-3 in an attempt to boost their goal difference), Rodgers’ achievements during the campaign tend to be overlooked and often greeted with mirth rather than respect.

Regardless, this would have been a remarkable accomplishment for a team that finished eighth during the previous season, and the Ulsterman deserves his place on this exalted list!

#2. Kevin Keegan (Newcastle United)

No list of this type would be complete with Kevn Keegan, who remains the only manager in history to have twice finished second in the Premier League without winning the title.

Keegan went closest to the title in the 1995/96 season, when his expansive and expensively assembled Newcastle side (known as the ‘Entertainers’) opened a 12-point lead at the top of the table by midway and even added the talented Faustino Asprilla to their numbers in January.

At this stage, betting on Newcastle to win the title ahead of Manchester United seemed like a no-brainer, although as it turns out you’ll have been better served betting on online poker (the new GG Poker Bonus Code is NEWBONUS just in case this does appeal to you).

However, a Manchester United side packed with academy talent and led by the returning Eric Cantona eventually overhauled their less seasoned rivals, with the Magpies efforts also undermined by the truly exceptional mind games of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Because of this, Keegan eventually unravelled in an emotional SKY TV interview, repeating that he would ‘love it’ if his side ultimately pipped the Reds on the last day of the season despite falling into second.

It’s for this type of emotional outburst that memes were created, of course, while it continues to distract from Keegan’s legacy. Ultimately, however, his team went close to winning the league with a brand of attacking football scarcely seen since, and his efforts should be rewarded with a place on this list. 

#1. Rafa Benitez (Liverpool)

It’s hard to imagine any other manager filling the top spot on our list, with the Premier League arguably one of the few major trophies that the Spaniard failed to win during a stellar career.

Remember, Benitez impressively won two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia, before earning a Champions League crown in 2005 and reaching a second final two years later (winning the FA Cup in between in 2006).

He has since added the Supercoppa Italiana, the FIFA World Club Cup, a Europa League and (bizarrely) and EFL Championship title with Newcastle, creating a list of honours that few managers can match.

He did it all on a relative shoestring too, while in 2008/09 he also came within four points of winning Liverpool’s first EPL title since 1990.

Powered by the ruthless Fernando Torress and an inspired Steven Gerrard, Liverpool lost just twice all season only to be undermined by a series of draws and the relentless form of northwest neighbours Manchester United.

So, despite being criminally underrated and often disrespected for a relatively pragmatic style of play, Benitez remains a remarkable manager who is undoubtedly the best ever not to win an EPL title.