As the current manager, Antonio Conte is turning a lot of heads. His arrival was met with some apprehension. In his first management gig for Serie B Arrezo, Conte got sacked only three months for lackluster results. Later he took a position at Juventus and although he went on lead the club from Serie B to Serie A and eventually to a Coppa Italia victory, he eventually resigned on very bad terms with the Juventus hierarchy.
There are brilliant individuals that know how to get along with others, and there are brilliant individuals with abrasively “strong” personalities. Clearly Conte is the latter.
Nonetheless, it looks like Conte is getting Chelsea into right good shape. Recently, he lead the team into a 4-0 victory against Manchester United—the same team that former Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho is currently helming. Ouch.
With all of the recent buzz around Conte, and given the latest Mourinho/Conte clash, I thought it would be fitting to look back at some of the greatest managers of Chelsea FC—4 to be exact.
After the departure of Guus Hiddink in 2009, Carlo Ancelotti arrived needing to fill some very big shoes. In his first season at Chelsea, Ancelotti managed to win the FA Cup for the club’s first ever Double-winning season. In that same season, Ancelotti lead Chelsea in a victory of Manchester United for the Premier League title. It’s unfortunate that his latter seasons didn’t live up to the amazing first seasons he had (maybe it was the Hiddink magic wearing off?), but his leading the team to their first Double-winning seasons will not soon be forgotten.
Now someone might say that Guus Hiddink was only ever an interim manager and so hardly deserves to be on this list. I would tell that someone that in both 2009 and 2015 when Hiddink stepped in to the role of manager, he saved the Blues from an otherwise devastating season. In 2009, Luiz Felipe Sclolari was managing the team with very underwhelming results. Hiddink signed on for only three months, but in those three months he managed to pull the team from a bottom-rank position to third place in the Premier League and the FA Cup. In fact, the Blues lost only once under Hiddink’s expert guidance. In 2015, the Blues were only 2 points away from relegation when Jose Mourinho was dismissed and Hiddink was once again called back into action. Although there wasn’t much silverware this time around, Hiddink still managed to rally the Blues for a resounding season. For his ability to come through in a pinch, and his magnanimous insistence that Chelsea be coached for the long-term by someone else, Hiddink stands out as one of the greats.
Roberto Di Matteo
There’s something special about a club player becoming a manager. Take for instance the great Ruud Gullit who helmed the Blues for a solid but short-lived outing. When it comes to players turned managers, no one sticks out quite like Roberto Di Matteo does. As a player, Di Matteo helped helped the Blues to excel between 1996 and 2000. Then in 2001, Di Matteo sustained a fracture. Though he hoped to join back in 2002, his injury thwarted his plans. He retired, took some years off, and then started doing some coaching for the team, which then turned into managing for the Blues in 2012. Di Matteo’s crowning achievement was that he landed landed the team both the 2012 FA Cup and their first Champions League trophy ever. Given everything Di Matteo managed to accomplish, who knows why he was sacked after the amazing first year he had.
Mourinho has a long history with the Blues. He first signed on for a four-year contract in 2004. At the initial press announcement, Mourinho wowed reporters and fans alike with his poised confidence (to contrast with the abrasive confidence of Conte). In his first season, he introduced new tactics and managed to land the Blues the League Cup for first time in 50 years. The team went onto win another League Cup, two league championships, and one FA cup during Mourinho’s first stretch. Unfortunately, his football politics didn’t completely align with those of of the club hierarchy. Mourinho left the team in 2007 to the chagrin of many fans. In 2013, after achieving a lot of success with Milan and Real Madrid, Mourinho returned to the team for a fantastic season. When all is said and done, Mourinho ended up pulling in a whopping six trophies for the club. I dare say that any success that Conte has achieved and will achieve with the team is thanks in large part to the foundation that Mourinho had established for the team.
There you have it! Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter at @Nick_Fainlight.
Thanks for reading!