Chelsea have become a force in the Premier League and in Europe since the arrival of Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge. The owner is ruthless, passionate and direct. He knows what he wants and won’t let anything thwart him. Abramovich’s methods have been criticised though due to the regularity of sacking his managers. Chelsea seem to have gone through most of Europe’s elite and now there may be none left.
Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez, Roberto Di Matteo, Andre Villas Boas and Carlo Ancelotti were the last five managers of Chelsea before Guus Hiddink recently took the reign as the interim boss. Four of those have won the Champions League with only Villas Boas yet to do so despite winning the Europa League with Porto before joining Chelsea. The total amount of time those managers spent at Chelsea equals to just over 9 years but with Jose Mourinho having almost 6 years at the helm across two spells.
When Mourinho was appointed for the first time in June 2004, he was their most successful appointment as a manager after he’d already won the Champions League, Europa League and the Portuguese domestic title by the age of 41. He went on to become the most successful manager too after his first 3 years and further extended that title in his most recent stint before getting the sack in December.
Mourinho has won the Premier League title with Chelsea on three occasions but failed to claim Champions League glory – the one thing Abramovich wanted more than any other title. Jose called time on his first spell before Chelsea came running back to him again in 2013. Mourinho accepted the challenge of returning to the Premier League but after his side won the title (his third time), they struggled to make an impact in the league this campaign. He was sacked in December and Chelsea appointed Guus Hiddink as their interim boss – the sixth manager in seven years.
Ancelotti and Benitez both joined Chelsea after already becoming European champions but neither were given the time. Ancelotti’s three-year deal was cut a year short whereas Benitez claimed he wasn’t aware he’d only be taking control of a 6 month stint as an interim until after he’d agreed to take on the job as manager. Ancelotti guided Chelsea to the double in his first season, securing the title and the FA Cup. He took the team to within touching distance of the title the following season, finishing second behind Manchester United in a season that came down to the wire, but Champions League disappointment meant he was given the sack.
Despite protests from what seemed like every Chelsea fan, Benitez still guided the Chelsea team to Europa League glory, reached two cup semi-finals, and finished third in the league, securing Champions League qualification during his 6 month spell – not a bad achievement for a manager nobody seemed to want at the club. At the end of the 2012-13 season he was released from his contract early to become the manager of Napoli after what could only be described as an unappreciated spell.
After Ancelotti, Chelsea turned to Andre Vilas Boas, Mourinho’s apprentice from Porto who mirrored several of the “Special One’s” characteristics. His appointment was disappointing from the start and after a string of league and European defeats, the Portuguese manager was sacked after just 9 months. Roberto Di Matteo took over as interim manager for the remainder of the season before he was named the permanent manager in the summer of 2012. Within two months of taking the reigns, Di Matteo guided Chelsea to an FA Cup final victory against Liverpool. He then went one further, leading Chelsea to the greatest achievement in the club’s history; winning the Champions League on penalties against Bayern Munich. He was rewarded for his victories by being named the permanent manager and being offered a two year contract but it was short lived when they let him go less than 6 months after claiming European glory.
Di Matteo’s sacking was a shock to many and strengthened fans’ complaints that Abramovich was too quick to shoot the gun against his managers. As a result, Chelsea have become a club renowned for sacking the boss when results aren’t going their way. Unlike Manchester United and Arsenal, who are well known for sticking by their manager, Chelsea seem to expect theirs to perform under pressure. It’s a high standard that has delivered success and trophies in abundance across the last decade but it may be costly for the future of the club.
Even Guus Hiddink, who is currently the interim manager, is reluctant to take on the job on a full-time basis and it’s widely suggested Pep Guardiola, the most in-demand manager, would turn the job down due to fears of a lack of support from the club’s board. Ancelotti could’ve been a candidate for the Chelsea job but given his last spell, it was unlikely he’d return and he’s accepted the role at Bayern Munich when Guardiola finishes his spell. Benitez is now available again but his history with the club makes that appointment almost certainly a no and with Manchester United and Manchester City rumoured to be releasing their managers within the year, Chelsea’s time is running out to appoint a new manager.
If Chelsea want to continue competing with Europe’s elite, they will need to invest support and a long term plan in a manager who promises success with time. If they continue sacking at the rate in which they are, they’ll be no top managers left to employ.