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Top gaffers under 40

At 37 and 38 years of age respectively, Andrea Stramaccioni and Vincenzo Montella not only possess the striking features that have young females the world over dreaming of Italian hunks, they are among the youngest coaches the Serie A has seen in its 80 plus years of existence. And the positions of the teams they lead on the league table show that they were hired for more than their looks. Currently occupying fourth place, Montella’s charges look set to play in Europe next season and if they manage to hold off Lazio, they’ll qualify for the UEFA Champions League playoffs. Stramaccioni’s Inter are on the other hand teetering dangerously on the brink of Europe in 7th with Udinese breathing down their necks. But despite his team’s poor recent run of form (or referee decisions), the former Bologna defender can claim to be the coach who snapped Juventus’ unbeaten streak before it attained 50 games. And with only 5 points separating them from Montella’s side with 6 games to go, UCL football remains a distinct possibility for the Nerazzurri. 

Considering former Roma frontman Montella is barely two years old in management and is in his first season with La Viola, what he has achieved in his 11 month stint is truly impressive. He has steered a side that was in danger of relegation last season into European contention while reigniting the flagging careers of the likes of Alberto Aquilani and David Pizzaro. Both these players endured indifferent spells in the English premier league with Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. Another ex-Liverpudlian in the form of Mohammed Sissoko is also finding his feet in Florence under Montella. Pizzaro has particularly impressed in the deep-lying creative midfielder role and perhaps the bond between player and manager from their days as Giallorossi teammates is the reason. Besides that, the young manager has given amazing young talents such as Adem Ljajic a chance to shine. And the 22 year-old Serb has repaid his manager with some eye-catching displays. 24 year-old Montenegrin Stevan Jovetić has been equally impressive and is the club’s leading goalscorer with 12 so far this season. But with clubs such as Juventus reportedly looking to swoop in the summer, Montella will have his work cut out trying to hang on to his prized assets.     

Of course there is the exuberant, pensive, squatting Andre Villas-Boas who began his coaching career at the ripe old age of 21. But even as he lapped up the heady atmosphere of grand stadia such as the San Siro and Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho’s wing, the youthful Portuguese probably never dreamt he would lead Porto to an unbeaten season, scooping the treble and conquering Europe at just 32. Seeking perhaps to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, he swapped Estadio do Dragao for Stamford Bridge after sweeping all in his homeland. But he had bitten off more than he could chew and 9 months after receiving his appointment letter, he received notification that he had been relieved of his duties as Chelsea boss. However, the ambitious Portuguese would not be jobless for long; Tottenham Hotspurs anointed him first team manager in July 2012. He seems to have regained his footing in the North London outfit, guiding them into champions league contention and a decent run in the Europa cup. The Spurs’ progress in the latter competition was only halted at the quarter-finals stage by Swiss upstarts FC Basel.

Who can ever forget Manchester United’s reliable super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? The 40 year-old Norwegian has been boss of the team he started out his professional career in for the past two years. Despite his tenure beginning with a loss to a newly promoted team, the Baby-faced Assassin managed to pick up his troops and rally them to win the Norwegian premier league title for the first time in Molde Fotballklubb’s 100-year history. And after a move to Aston Villa failed to materialise last summer, Solskjaer led Molde FK to a second consecutive Tippeligaen title this season. Not bad for a man whose only prior coaching experience was two seasons at the helm of the Red Devils reserves. 

Contrast this with his former gaffer who had to wait 12 years before assuming the reigns of a BPL club, and a further four years before winning his first piece of silverware with Man U; the 1990 FA Cup. What is the secret to success for these young managers?   

Phil Kimonge