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Why Jose Mourinho's Sacking Means That Chelsea Will Win The Champions League

Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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Roman Abramovich is a man of many talents - many of them clandestine - but one attribute is clearly in the public domain: he is a pioneer of Human Resources. The Chelsea owner has revolutionised the role of Caretaker Manager. The caretaker job  was once the bulwark of humble men like Ricky Sbragia at Sunderland, who was profoundly embarrassed when Niall Quinn suggested he deserved the job full time. Not so at Chelsea. Abramovich has inagurated the figure of the high-powered Interim manager. It is a footballing revolution discussed in today's edition of The Racket, the new daily podcast from your friends here at Balls.ie.

As pointed out on the podcast, the only Chelsea managers who have been successful in Europe have been those who were appointed on an interim basis. It seems that  a successful manager at Chelsea does not have to have previous Premier League experience (think Guus Hiddink), does not have to have managed in Europe (see Roberto Di Matteo), does not have to be popular among the fans (see the near-comical abuse hailed down upon Rafa Benitez)  and can even be Avram Grant. It seems the only criteria for the job is by prefixing your job title with the word 'interim'. Here is a closer look at the European success visited upon Chelsea by managers who were essentially only visiting Chelsea themselves. The Stamford Job-Bridge Interns, if you will. (You're fired - ed). 

Avram Grant

Perhaps unfairly heralded as the only Premier League coach to look more like a gravedigger than a football manager, Grant's cadaverous eyes were the only set able to see off the challenge of Rafa Benitez' Liverpool in a Champions League semi-final. Jose Mourinho failed in 2005 and 2007, before leaving the club in September of the latter year.

A falling-out with Abramovich is believed to be the main reason behind his departure. The Chelsea hierarchy then turned to Grant, who had been installed as the club's Director of Football the previous July. Grant's first win as a manager came in the Champions League, a 2-1 win away to Valencia. Chelsea went on to the League Cup final, where they were beaten 2-1 after extra time by Spurs, and finished second in the Premier League.


He was agonisingly close to becoming the first Chelsea manager to win the Champions League, with missed penalties by John Terry and Nicolas Anelka proving crucial in a shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the final in Moscow. Just three days later, Chelsea terminated his contract.

Grant went on to manage Portsmouth and West Ham with little success: he was relegated with the Hammers in 2011. He has yet to return to English football. Alas poor Avram, we knew him well. Albeit as a man of extremely limited jest.

Guus Hiddink


Hiddink was installed as interim manager in February 2009, following the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Dutchman's first job in English football proved to be quite successful: he lost just once in charge, against Tottenham. He guided Chelsea to third in the Premier League and won the FA Cup, beating Everton 2-1 in the final.

Such was his success, Chelsea players and fans begged him to stay, but he refused to go back on the commitment he made to the Russian national team. Hiddink is the only man on this list to have failed to qualify for a European final, although he was desperately unfortunate not to. Chelsea were denied a string of legitimate penalties against Barcelona in the second leg of their semi-final, before an Andrea Iniesta stunner knocked them out with minutes remaining. Hiddink called Tom Henning Ovrebo's refereeing performance the "worst I have ever seen".


Nonetheless, Hiddink is Chelsea's most successful Premier League manager, winning 87% of points on offer. With Hiddink returning, perhaps that old football adage will come through: these things even themselves out over the course of a couple of seasons seven years apart.


Roberto Di Matteo


Few managers have had a smile as infectious as Di Matteo's, and his period in interim charge of Chelsea gave him plenty reasons to bear his pearly whites. Following his sacking from West Brom, he was appointed as Andre Villas Boas' assistant in the summer of 2011. When results faltered under Villas Boas, Di Matteo was appointed on an interim basis after the Portugese was sacked in March 2012.

It led to an incredibly successful few months, as Chelsea won the FA Cup beating Liverpool in 2012. Most remarkable was the club's maiden Champions League victory. They knocked champions Barcelona out at the semi-final stage with a 3-2 aggregate win. The second leg was a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou: a game famous for John Terry's sinking to new levels of absurdity by kicking Alexis Sanchez and Gary Neville's voice raising to bother nearby dogs as Fernando Torres secured passage to the final.

Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on their home ground in the final, winning on penalties. Such was Di Matteo's success, his interim prefix was scribbled out as he was given the job full time in the summer.


Perhaps proving the importance of the interim moniker, Di Matteo was sacked the following November following defeat to Juventus, which eliminated them from the competition they won just six months earlier.

Rafa Benitez


Benitez succeeded Di Matteo, and he too was appointed on a temporary basis. Benitez was incredibly unpopular among the Chelsea fans,  probably owing to his poor relationship with Jose Mourinho and possibly due to his habit of beating Chelsea in important semi-finals, and he endured a barrage of boos in his debut game at home to Manchester City.

Benitez' brief was to ensure Chelsea qualified for the next season's Champions League, which he delivered upon by finishing third in the Premier League. With the side virtually knocked out of the Champions League by the time he took charge, Benitez guided Chelsea to the Europa League, which they won by defeating Benfica 2-1.

There was an almost heroic stand-off between Benitez and Chelsea fans. Following a game against Middlesborough, Benitez admonished the fans who jeered him, assuring them that they were wasting their time as he was going to leave at the end of the season, regardless of their opinions.

Benitez assuredly shuffled off to Napoli at the end of the season with his Chelsea objectives achieved, and with the fans' objections slightly less strident. Benitez is currently the interim Real Madrid manager in all but name.


With Chelsea still in this year's Champions League, and an interim manager on his way in, a flutter on the Blues to win the European Cup looks tempting. It seems at Chelsea that if form is temporary and class is permanent, then European success is interim.

See Also: Watch: One Of The Funniest Moments In MNF History Was Missed By Many This Week

See Also: Trail Of Tears: Jose Mourinho's Chelsea Ruin Traced In 6 Miserable Post-Match Interviews


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