The emergence of ISL saw better foreign players coming into the Indian football leagues. This was followed by an influx of foreign coaches, who as players have played at the highest level of football. Be it the World Cup winners like Roberto Carlos, Marco Materazzi, or Champions League winners like Jorge Costa or former Premier League striker Robbie Fowler, they have all been influential in the development of Indian Football. As players, most of them were successful but as coaches, some of them got success whereas some failed. Here is the information about all the ISL winning coaches and their current status.
6. Marco Materazzi
Italian-born Champions League and World cup winner Marco Materazzi started his career as a player, representing several Serie B and Serie C clubs. Finally, in August 2001 Materazzi made his Serie A debut for Inter and went on to win the Champions League in 2010.
Materazzi entered the Indian football arena in 2014 as player-manager of Chennaiyin FC and made 7 appearances for them. He won the ISL with Chennaiyin FC. That squad included Bernard Mendy from France who has played for PSG in Ligue 1.
Marco Materazzi is now a free agent but Chennaiyin FC fans will always remember him as a club legend.
5. John Gregory
Chennaiyin FC fans will always cherish the name of John Gregory, the English gaffer who steered their team to the 2nd ISL title.
Before becoming a coach, Gregory was a player who made his debut in 1972 at the age of 18 years for Northampton Town. He went on to play for several English clubs like Aston Villa, Brighton Hove Albion, Queen’s Park Rangers, Derby County. Concurrently, he was engaged in managing several amateur clubs in Northamptonshire throughout the 1970s.
He had his first stint with Portsmouth as a professional manager. After that, he managed Plymouth Argyle and later worked as a coaching staff of Brain Little in Leicester City. He then managed several English clubs like Aston Villa, Derby County, QPR. Not being much of a success as a coach in his homeland, Gregory started looking for overseas options. He first signed for an Israeli club Maccabi Ahe Nazareth, only to see it being relegated. Next, he had a brief spell with Israeli club FC Ashdod. After his stints in Israel, he came back to England and joined Crawley Town.
Finally, on 3rd July 2017, Gregory signed as the head coach of Chennaiyin FC and led them to their 2nd ISL title by defeating their arch-rivals Bengaluru FC in the latters’ home ground with the scoreline of 3-2.
Now he is a free agent.
4. Jose Fransisco Molina
Jose Fransisco Molina was born in Valencia, Spain. He started playing professionally for UD Alzira in 1990 as a goalkeeper. Being purchased by the local giants, Valencia CF, in 1991, he went on a loan stint with Villareal CF after which he was purchased by Albacete Balompie.
He made his La Liga debut on 8th January 1995 with a clean sheet against Real Oviedo. In the same year, he joined Club Atletico de Madrid and helped them to win both the La Liga and Copa Del Ray. After Atletico got relegated he joined Deportivo La Coruna in 2000 and helped them to win the Spanish Cup and two Spanish Super Cups. In 2006-07 he came back to Valencia playing for Levante UD for one season and announced his retirement from football.
He made his national team debut for Spain against Norway in 1996. He represented Spain in one World Cup and two European Championships.
He started his coaching career in the 2009-10 season with Villareal C in Tercera Divison. Later he replaced Javi Garcia at the helm of reserves in Segunda Divison as the team was seriously threatened with relegation. In 2014 he joined Getafe CF B leading them to the 14th position in the Segunda Division B. Later he was signed by the Hong Kong club Kitchee SC and was instrumental in the club winning the domestic treble and reaching the AFC Cup quarter-finals.
3. Carles Cuadrat
Carles Cuadrat is a familiar face among Indian football fans as he helped Bengaluru FC to win their first-ever ISL. Cuadrat was a player before being a coach. Cuadrat played for several Spanish second-division clubs. At the age of 10, he joined the world-famous La Masia academy. He played for all youth teams of FC Barcelona between 1978-1988. He was also part of the FC Barcelona u-19 side which won two consecutive Spanish Cups in 1986 and 87. In 1988 he played a couple of pre-season friendlies for FC Barcelona. But he was forced to retire at the age of 30 because of injuries. After his retirement, he joined La Masia as a physical coach. He joined FC Barcelona legend Frank Rijkaard’s coaching staff at Galatasaray as conditioning coach alongside Albert Roca who was an assistant coach there. When Albert Roca joined the El Salvador National team as head coach Carles Cuadrat joined him as an assistant coach and this association continued with the Saudia Arabian National team.
Midway through the 2016- League, Bengaluru FC appointed Albert Roca as the head coach and Carles Cuadrat joined Roca as an assistant. During his stint as an assistant coach, Cuadrat helped Bengaluru to reach the finals of the AFC cup final in 2016 making BFC the first Indian club to do so. Bengaluru FC won the Federation Cup and Super Cup in 2017 and 2018. After the departure of Roca from Bengaluru FC at the end of the 2017-18 season, Carles Cuadrat was appointed his successor. As the head coach, Carles Cuadrat helped Bengaluru to win the first-ever ISL title and BFC became the first team to win the ISL trophy and finish at the top of the table. Even in the 2019-20 season, Cuadrat helped BFC to reach the semi-finals but unfortunately lost to ATK. In the 2020-21 season, Carles Cuadrat was sacked because of the poor performance of the team in the ISL. Now Carles Cuadrat is a free agent and he is searching for a job.
2. Sergio Lobera
Sergio Lobera, unlike others, started his career in football as a coach. After an impressive spell with Dosa Salesians and Jabac Terrassa, he joined FC Barcelona going through its youth system and became the manager of FC Barcelona C in the Tercera division. He was appointed as the sporting director of Terrasa FC in June 2007 and also became their coach in their last 7 games. In May 2010 he signed a three-year contract with CD San Roque de Lepe. The following campaign he was in charge of AD Ceuta. In May 2012, he became assistant manager of FC Barcelona under the head coach Tito Vilanova but after a month he signed for Segunda division club Las Palmas. On 24 December 2014, he was appointed as head coach of Moghreb Tetouan.
On 6th June 2017, he was appointed as head coach of FC Goa, wherein he revived the Tiki-Taka style of football and by adopting the ‘beautiful football’ he won the Super Cup and the first-ever Hero ISL League Shield. In the next season, due to conflicts with the management, he was sacked. Following the acquisition of Mumbai City FC by CFG (City Football Group) in 2020, Lobera became the manager and won both the ISL trophy and League Shield for the side. Presently, he is still in contract with Mumbai City FC.
1. Antonio Lopez Habas
Antonio Lopez Habas z can be considered as one of the best coaches in ISL, as he is the only coach to win two ISL titles. As a player, Habas had an unassuming career. He played for several Spanish clubs like Sevilla CF, Real Murcia, Burgos CF and Club Atletico de Madrid. Lopez started his coaching career with Atletico reserves in the early 1990s and after one season with them, he went on to become the assistant coach of Bolivia National Team. Following the resignation of the head coach, he led the Bolivian National Team in two Copa America tournaments. He then shifted his focus towards club football where he coached numerous clubs like Club Bolivar, UE Lielda, Sporting de Gijon, Valencia CF, Mamelodi Sundowns FC, Bidvest Vits.
After all these stints, he was appointed in the very first season of ISL as the coach of Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and went on to win the inaugural ISL title. In 2016 he became the head coach of FC Pune City. He returned as the head coach of ATK in 2019 and won the ISL. In 2020 he was named the head coach of the newly merged side ATKMB and was one step away from winning both the league shield and the trophy. Antonio Lopez Habaz is still in contract with ATKMB.
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