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ISL- Indian Super League

Top five coaches with most matches in ISL history

Published at :March 17, 2024 at 8:55 PM
Modified at :March 17, 2024 at 8:55 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL media)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Antonio Lopez Habas has spent eight of his last ten years in ISL.

The Indian Super League (ISL) has attracted several quality head coaches as part of the plan to improve the overall quality of Indian footballers. Most ISL sides have opted to trust a foreign head coach to take them to success, because of the amount of expertise and knowledge that they possess.

There is a general feeling that experienced foreign coaches can bring in the tactical prowess and man-management ability that inexperienced Indian coaches can’t. That is why teams have often opted to prioritize bringing in a head coach who has a lot of positive experience in the major European or South American football nations.

As the tale goes in football, head coaches in the Indian Super League have also had to face the bitter pill of being fired. However, certain individuals have had longer reigns in their respective clubs, mostly because of the success they brought with their expertise. With that being said, let’s look at the top five managers having overseen the most matches in ISL history.

 5. Owen Coyle

Owen Coyle in ISL.
Owen Coyle (Image Source: ISL)

After having managed Premier League teams like Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, Owen Coyle’s arrival as Chennaiyin FC’s manager in 2019 was a big deal. While some speculated that it’d be a short-term affair, Coyle has seemingly fallen in love with Indian Football. In his first season with Chennaiyin, he helped them finish as the runners-up in the playoffs. In 2020, he left the Marina Machans to take up the managerial role at Jamshedpur FC instead.

With some smart recruitments, he guided the Red Machines to win the Indian Super League Shield title in the 2020/21 season and spent two campaigns with them. Coyle is now the Chennaiyin FC head coach and trying to get them to qualify for the ISL playoffs this season. The 57-year-old has managed to coach in 75 matches so far, having a 44% win rate. He managed 42 games as Jamshedpur’s coach and is currently 33 with Chennaiyin, something which he will aim to significantly increase going forward.

4. Juan Ferrando

Juan Ferrando (Image Source: ISL)

The Barcelona-born coach earned his reputation during his short stint as the manager of Moldovan heavyweights Sheriff Tiraspol mostly working in Spain. Ferrando was brought to India as the FC Goa head coach in 2020 and proved to be an instant hit. The Spaniard enabled the Gaurs to play a thrilling form of attacking football and earn the reputation as one of the Indian Super League’s most unpredictable sides. He helped Goa win the 2021 Durand Cup title but left them in 2021 to join Mohun Bagan.

Ferrando took the Mariners to greater heights, helping them win the 2023-24 ISL title and the Durand Cup last year too. He ensured the Kolkata heavyweights played exciting attacking football, but a slump after a strong start to the 2023/24 season got him sacked. Ferrando has managed 78 matches in the ISL (28 with Goa and 50 with Mohun Bagan) – having a 44.87% win rate. Knowing the kind of experience he has in the Indian Super League, it’s unlikely to be long before some team brings him back as their head coach.

3. Manolo Marquez

Manolo Marquez (Image Source: ISL)

Hyderabad FC were responsible for introducing Manolo Marquez to Indian Football, in turn appointing a shrewd tactician who instilled a winning mentality at the club. Marquez, who worked as the head coach of Las Palmas and Espanyol B in his career, has been a perfect fit for the ISL. He has helped unearth several quality Indian players and revived the careers of players like Nikhil Poojary and Laxmikant Kattimani.

Marquez worked for nearly four years at Hyderabad FC, helping them win the 2021-22 ISL title and also play in the AFC Cup. He joined FC Goa last year and has elevated them to compete for the ISL Shield title. Marquez has managed 84 matches so far in the ISL, winning 41 times and only losing 15. He seems to be comfortable working in India, and fans will hope the Spaniard stays for the long term because he tends to improve Indian footballers and give opportunities to youngsters.

2. Sergio Lobera

Sergio Lobera (Image Source: ISL)

A former coach at FC Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy and also Tito Vilanova’s assistant coach, Sergio Lobera brought a vast amount of pedigree upon moving to India in 2017. The 47-year-old arrived as FC Goa’s head coach, helping them play some thrilling attacking footballers and helping many Indian footballers find their rhythm. He helped the Gaurs win the 2019-20 ISL Shield and also the Durand Cup in 2019 before joining Mumbai City in 2020. The Islanders dominated the ISL in the 2020-21 season, winning both the ISL shield and playoffs.

After leaving Mumbai City in 2021, Lobera had a short stint at Chinese Super League side Sichuan Jiuniu before opting to return to India as Odisha FC’s head coach last year. Lobera has ensured that Odisha plays a progressive attacking style this season and remains strongly in the ISL shield race – while the Juggernauts also impressed in the AFC Cup. Lobera has overseen 97 ISL matches in his career, 56 as FC Goa’s gaffer, 23 with Mumbai City, and 18 with Odisha. He has an amazing 53.61% win rate, the highest among all major ISL coaches, and his number of matches managed in the ISL is guaranteed to go up.

1. Antonio Lopez Habas

Antonio Lopez Habas (Image Source: ISL)

Antonio Habas has almost become synonymous with the ISL because of his long-standing association with the league since its inception in 2014. He was one of the first coaches appointed, taking over the then Atletico de Kolkata. He has gone on to manage several teams like FC Pune City and now Mohun Bagan – spending eight of the last 10 years managing in the ISL. Habas, who worked as the manager of Bolivia, Celta Vigo, Valencia, and Tenerife in the past – has instilled a winning mentality wherever he’s worked.

If not anything else, his playing style is effective enough to get the job done. Habas is the only coach to have won two ISL titles and he seems to be marching towards a third – with Mohun Bagan at the top of the ISL table. Habas has taken charge of a whopping 105 matches – winning 50 games and knowing his passion for coaching, the 66-year-old is probably going to wrack up higher numbers before retiring.

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