With Gerard Nus’ departure from NorthEast United, he becomes the latest in a long line of young head coaches who have tried their luck in the Indian Super League (ISL) and achieved varying degrees of success. At just 35 though, he was the youngest ever to have helmed the responsibility of a head coach in the league. Here we take a look at the ten youngest head coaches apart from him to have graced the ISL with their presence.
Nicolas Anelka (Mumbai City FC)
The prolific French goalscorer was 36 when he joined Mumbai City as a player-manager in 2015. He had played the season before as well, scoring twice for the Islanders in the inaugural edition of the ISL. However, his return wasn’t a happy one as Mumbai City failed to qualify for the knockout stages. His short stay at the club also had its fair share of controversies, with the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker getting into arguments with a number of players, most notably India captain Sunil Chhetri. He also claimed that his team lacked fighting spirit following their tepid draw against bottom-placed Kerala Blasters that season.
Clifford Miranda (FC Goa)
The only Indian on this list, former midfielder Clifford Miranda was given the head coach role following the sacking of Sergio Lobera in January 2020. At 37, he became one of the youngest head coaches ever in ISL and went on to lead the side to the top of the table after the group stages, thereby qualifying for the group stages of the AFC Champions League. He has recently completed his AFC Pro license and is currently working as an assistant coach to Juan Ferrando at the club and plays an important role in talent scouting.
Robbie Keane (ATK)
The former Republic of Ireland and Tottenham Hotspur striker initially joined ATK as a marquee player in 2017 before he was asked to take over the managerial reins and see out the season following the sacking of Teddy Sheringham and Ashley Westwood. The then 37-year-old scored the winner in his managerial debut against NorthEast United and then went on to oversee proceedings for a couple more cup games. ATK eventually finished outside the playoff spots and questions were raised about Keane’s commitment to the cause after he had taken an extended holiday in the middle of the season to recover from an achilles injury.
Gianluca Zambrotta (Delhi Dynamos)
The former Italian defender and World Cup winner was announced as Delhi Dynamos’ head coach in 2016 at the age of 39. He replaced Roberto Carlos in the role and guided the side to a top four spot in his first season. Delhi finished with five wins, six draws and three defeats that season and played an attractive style of football. They went down to Kerala Blasters in the semifinals. The Italian then had his contract terminated mutually after reports emerged that he was set to join Chinese side Jiangsu Suning as an assistant coach under former England manager Fabio Capello.
Juan Ferrando (FC Goa)
The current FC Goa head coach came on board ahead of the 2019-20 campaign at just 39 years of age. He was the campus and methodological coordinator at RCD Espanyol and had his ‘Practicum’ with Barcelona’s B side. Spells with youth teams at Hospitalet and Malaga followed, before he took Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol to the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. The Spaniard then moved to Greece before coming back to Spain with Cultural Leonesa. Another stint in Greece later, he took charge of the Gaurs and has already impressed with his managerial style, taking the team to third place in the table.
Sergio Lobera (FC Goa/Mumbai City FC)
Then 40, the Spaniard first arrived in India in 2017 as the FC Goa head coach on an initial two-year contract. His debut match in charge of Goa was a win against Chennaiyin FC. In what was a successful stint at the club, he took them to the playoffs in his first season before bettering that record in the following season when his side lost to Bengaluru FC in the final. Under his tutelage, the Gaurs were the league’s top-scorers for three straight seasons besides their Super Cup victory in 2019. Having moved to Mumbai City this term, his tactical acumen has once again shown through with the Islanders currently sitting 5 points clear at the top.
Joao de Deus (NorthEast United)
The Portuguese head coach was brought on board ahead of the 2017-18 season when he was 41. Having failed to qualify for the playoffs in the first three editions of the ISL, the former Cape Verde national team coach was expected to work wonders with the young squad. However, things didn’t quite go to plan and he was sacked midway into the season after the Highlanders could accumulate just four points in the first seven games, scoring just twice and conceding 12 times. A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Pune City seemed to be the last straw as he became the third head coach to be sacked in the same week.
Marco Materazzi (Chennaiyin FC)
Another Italian World Cup winner, Marco Materazzi took charge of Chennaiyin FC as a player-manager in 2014 when he was 41. The former Inter Milan defender guided the side to their maiden ISL title in 2015, a year after taking over full-time coaching duties. However, the next season was underwhelming to say the least as the Marina Machans finished second from bottom. Even so, his three seasons at the club will be remembered fondly by the fans as he went on to become a hugely likeable figure. Also, he is undoubtedly the most successful out of all the names mentioned in this list despite that third season.
Ashley Westwood (ATK)
The former Bengaluru FC gaffer joined the Kolkata-based side in 2018 as an interim head coach. 41 at the time, Westwood endured a woeful run during his short stay with the side managing to bag just one point out of a possible 21. Having taken over from Teddy Sheringham, the Englishman failed to guide his team into the playoff spots as ATK narrowly managed to avoid finishing bottom of the table.
Cesar Farias (NorthEast United)
The former Venezuela head coach took over the reins at NorthEast United in October 2015 at the age of 42. He was a part of the Venezuela setup when a Lionel Messi-led Argentina had come to play in Kolkata and had self admittedly wanted to coach in India ever since. His association with the Highlanders was up and down, although he did almost take them to the playoff spots that season. He then went on to manage clubs in Paraguay and Bolivia before becoming the Bolivian national team head coach in 2018.