When you think of Chelsea, the club doesn’t exactly inspire nostalgic romanticism; with most of their successes having come within living memory, that’s not entirely surprising. Few will remember or have even heard of Dave Sexton’s FA Cup winning team or Ted Drake’s 1955 First Division win. Thus, it will come as no surprise that Chelsea’s greatest managers have come within the modern era. But, that’s not to say that there are little to choose from. Ruud Gullit, Claudio Ranieri, Guus Hiddink have all steered the Chelsea ship with a degree of success, however, none of them will feature in the top three…
3. Gianluca Vialli
We’ll start with a controversial choice. Gianluca Vialli was a fantastic player and, as a result, earned well over 400 appearances at the highest echelons of the game. However, a good knowledge of football on the pitch doesn’t always translate well to the dugout. After two years at Stamford Bridge, the Italian left for Watford following a bust-up with several Chelsea players where he was promptly sacked after only a year in charge.
That dismissal ended his brief managerial career but he did leave Chelsea with several highlights. Vialli finished what Ruud Gullit had started by winning the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998. The following season Chelsea beat Real Madrid in the European Super Cup and finished fourth in the Premier League – their highest position since 1970.
In their Champions League debut, Vialli managed to take the team to the quarter-finals of the competition before heroically suffering to a 6-4 aggregate defeat to Spanish behemoth Barcelona. The first FA Cup final of the millennia was also held aloft by Vialli’s team after his side’s victory over Aston Villa.
Vialli’s success during his short tenure does probably owe some thanks to Ruud Gullit, but by the same notion, the successes of later Chelsea managers should show some respect to the Italian who helped create the foundations that would later cement Chelsea’s place in the Premier League elite.
The current Chelsea boss and the man to whom Chelsea owe their first league and cup double: Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti is another Italian who has galvanized the Chelsea team following a disruptive period. Upon his appointment, he became the fifth Chelsea manager in 21 months.
The man, who had taken AC Milan to so much success, instantly instilled confidence in the players and quickly went about redesigning Chelsea’s tactical style. At first favouring Jose Mourinho’s diamond and defensive discipline, the Italian first implemented a more flexible midfield before he came to utilize Chelsea’s pace and strength in a 4-3-3.
As a testament to the removal of the Mourinho shackles, Ancelotti’s side scored 103 goals to win the Premier League, a total that included the three seven goal victory’s in the latter half of the season before securing the hotly contested title with an 8-0 drubbing of Wigan.
Chelsea’s hopes will be understandably high for the coming season thanks to Signore Ancelotti.
Who else? The Portuguese manager was the first to really harness Roman Abramovich’s millions to transform the team into title contenders. Claudio Ranieri had made big money signings to improve the side, but the team still lacked a real edge.
Enter ‘the Special One’.
Along with Mourinho came his backroom staff from Champions League winners Porto. They were also joined during the summer by Porto’s defensive duo Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira. Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Mateja Kezman and Benfica midfielder Tiago rounded off Jose’s spending spree and the restructured squad instantly paid dividends.
To this day, Mourinho remains Chelsea’s most successful manager to date after acquiring two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup in his three year stint at the London club.
Nevertheless, the all-important Champions League title remained elusive and, following several disagreements with the Chelsea owner, Jose left by ‘mutual consent’ in 2007.
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