Ranking the Chelsea Managers of the Roman Abramovich Era
Since Roman Abramovich's take over of the West London club in 2003, Chelsea has become one of the strongest clubs in all the world. The Russian billionaire pumped millions into the team, giving them more success during his reign than they had had in their past 100 years combined.
But amongst the influx of top talent, their has also been the yearly drama involving who will guide the ship through each season.
Other teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United prefer continuity to rapid reaction. But other teams are not owned by a man who demands success in everything he does. Abramovich sees the team as a reflection of himself. If they don't win, then he loses.
As Chelsea seeks its new manager, chief executive Ron Gourlay gave some words of advice to potential candidates. “Continuity is very important, but so is performance and results,” he told the The Mirror. “Performances on the field help drive a lot of the revenue off the field, so you have to get the balance right."
The six managers who have served under Abramovich learned this lesson the hard way. Some had success and their dismissal was called into question. Others saw their marching orders coming. But none could capture what Abramovich wanted most: the UEFA Champions League.
As Chelsea gets closer to naming its new manager, lets take a look back at those who did not quite make it.
6. Luiz Felipe Scolari
Appointed: July 1st, 2008
Sacked: February 9th, 2009
Scolari came into the team with high expectations. After successfully guiding Brazil to their fifth World Cup in 2002, he moved on to Portugal. There he did relatively well, getting the team to the final of UEFA Euro 2004, where they lost to Greece in one of the biggest upsets in European history.
Scolari's reign started well. After signing his former Portuguese stars Jose Bosingwa and Deco, Chelsea would go undefeated in their first eight games including a tie against Man U.
By the winter break, Scolari had Chelsea sitting comfortably in second place. But the Champions League campaign was not going quite as well, placing second in their group with a loss to Roma and ties to Bordeaux and lowly CFR Cluj.
They also were eliminated from the Carling Cup on penalties by Championship side Burnley.
The start of the second half could not have been any worse. A 3-0 thrashing at Old Trafford and a 2-0 defeat at Anfield put Scolari in the hot seat. A 0-0 draw at home to bottom-of-the-table Hull City effectively sealed the Brazilian's fate.
Beyond results Scolari had trouble managing personnel. Players were publicly criticizing their manager and little confidence in him was felt in the clubhouse. Notable spats with star striker Didier Drogba showed the division that existed and why the team was not living up to expectations.
5. Claudio Ranieri
Appointed: September 18th, 2000 (by the former owners)
Sacked: May 31st, 2004
Ranieri was the first manager to serve in the Abramovich era. He was not hired by the Russian, but Abramovich retained him when he bought the team. However, this does not mean his job was safe. Within days of buying the team, Abramovich was spot meeting with England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Ranieri was given a large transfer budget and used it to sign players such as Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole and Claude Makelele.
The manager performed well guiding the club to a second-place finish, their highest in 49 seasons, only behind the historic unbeaten Arsenal side. They would also break club records for fewest goals conceded and most points.
In the Champions League, the Italian got them into the semifinals by eliminating the same Arsenal side in the quarters. They would lose to that year's runner-up Monaco, 5-3 on aggregate.
During the entire season Ranieri's job was called into question by the media and Abramovich did little to stop the speculation. Every mishap the manager had was scrutinized and thought to be the final straw of his Chelsea career.
Despite the Blues having their best season in decades, the fact that they had no silverware to show for it saw the Russian with no choice but to let Chelsea's last link to the pre-Abramovich era go.
4. Avram Grant
Appointed: September 20th, 2007
Sacked: May 24th, 2008
Avram Grant came from a different position than any other manager on this list and has an equally bizarre tenure. Starting the 2007-08 season as director of football at the club, he would soon take over managerial duties after the much-publicized dismissal of Jose Mourinho.
His appointment was met with great hostility by the fans and even turned racial. The success of Mourinho and the way he was let go made Grant into an obvious scapegoat. More reasonable fans pointed to the lack of experience at this level was reason enough to criticize the appointment.
After a 2-0 defeat to Man U only three days after taking the reins, Grant would guide Chelsea to a 16-game unbeaten run. He would also sign Nicolas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic, who remain important members of the team today.
They would finish the EPL season in second place, two points behind Man U.
Grant's success in the Champions League was equally good. After winning their group, Chelsea would easily progress to the semifinals against Liverpool. Chelsea needed extra time at home to beat their northern rivals, 4-2 on aggregate, and progress to their first-ever Champions League final against Man U.
The game ended a 1-1 tie. In extra time Didier Drogba would be shown a straight red for slapping Man U defender Nemanja Vidic. This would prove costly as the game would go into penalties to decide the winner.
With Drogba out, John Terry would take a penalty. With a chance to win, he would slip on his approach and put the ball over the goal. Man U would go on to win the cup.
Grant would finish the season with no hardware, but got Chelsea closer to the Champions League Cup than anyone had or has since.
Perhaps the fact that the loss to Man U came on Abramovich's home soil in Moscow was too much for him to bear. He let go the only manager who had even given him a sniff of the trophy he wants.
3. Guus Hiddink
Appointed: February 11th, 2009
Sacked: Left to return to the Russian national team in May 2009
Hiddink's position as the head coach of the Russian national team put him in good company with Abramovich. Hiddink's personality instantly won over the owner and the team.
The Dutchman was warmly received after the volatile relationship Scolari had with the players. He would have instant success, going his entire tenure losing only one game against Tottenham in the EPL.
This impressive run was not enough to right the ship Scolari had left him. Chelsea would finish the season in third place, seven points adrift of champions Man U.
However, the Champions League was not quite as far out of reach as the EPL trophy. Though the team had underperformed under Scolari in the tournament, the Blues had done enough to get to the knockout round. After easily dispensing with Juventus and Liverpool in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively, they faced Barcelona in the semis.
Chelsea held the creative attack of the Catalans to a 0-0 draw at Nou Camp. In the return leg in London, Barca would controversially win on away goals in a 1-1 draw. Debatable penalties that would have been in Chelsea's favor were not given and a superb strike by Andres Iniesta would see Barca through on their way to the title.
Once the Champions League was no longer a possibility, Hiddink led the team on to win the FA Cup over Everton. He would later declare it as one of his biggest achievements and seemed delighted at the accomplishment.
After that win he had become a fan favorite. Signs were waving all around the stadium pleading for him to stay in his final games. Team leaders and veterans, such as John Terry and Petr Cech, asked him to continue coaching. But he wanted to honor his commitment to Russia and left following the FA Cup win.
2. Carlo Ancelloti
Appointed: June 1st, 2009
Sacked: May 22nd, 2011
Ancelotti brought with him Champions League pedigree. Winning the Cup four times (twice as a coach and twice as a player), Ancelotti was thought to be the man who would bring Abramovich European glory.
The Italian would get off to a good start, winning the Community Shield over Man U in his first game in charge.
Chelsea's season would finish as one of their best in history. They would win their first-ever domestic double, capturing both the league and the FA Cup. They scored 103 goals in the 2009-10 season, marking the first time in almost 50 years a top-flight English club scored over 100 goals in a season.
However, their Champions League run did not end so well. Chelsea would be ousted from the competition in the first knockout round by eventual champions Inter Milan. But the domestic success was too much for Abramovich to justify replacing the manager.
Ancelotti's second season in charge started where he left off. High-scoring routs at the beginning of the season put the Blues in commanding control of the table early.
By November their fortunes had turned. They went through a huge slump, dropping them to fifth in the table and putting Ancelotti's job in jeopardy.
The Italian was able to turn them around come spring, but the deficit they had accrued over the winter was too much to overcome. They would finish the season second, nine points behind Man U.
Though their Champions League this season was better, it was still not enough. Making it to the quarterfinals, Chelsea would be knocked out by Man U in convincing fashion, leaving Ancelotti position in serious jeopardy.
The midseason signing of Fernando Torres also brought more attention to the Bridge. The record signing amounted to nothing on the field and put the manager in a precarious situation. Forced to decide between the sitting the in-form Drogba and a $100 million man in Torres, he either upset fans or his boss.
Elimination from the FA and League Cup saw another season where Chelsea would bring home no trophies. Though Ancelotti coached one of the greatest teams in the club's history, the lack of silverware last season made it easy for him to become the Russian's latest victim.
1. Jose Mourinho
Appointed: June 2004
Sacked: Left September 20th, 2007 under "mutual consent"
Love him or hate him, he was brought in to get results and that's what he did. Mourinho was Abramovich's first hire and was brought in to establish Chelsea as a world power.
After bringing the Champions League trophy to Porto in 2004, Mourinho became linked to a move to England. Abramovich seized the opportunity and hired the Portuguese, who immediately established his presence by declaring himself "the special one" in his introductory press conference.
Bankrolled by Abramovich, Mourinho built his team, buying 70 million pounds worth of players such as Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira.
The new players would have an immediate impact, winning the Carling Cup and their first-ever Premier League title by a comfortable 12 points. They led the league most of the season and only suffered one loss to Man City.
Mourniho's quest for back-to-back Champions League titles did not go as well. Chelsea again would work their way relatively easily to the semifinals against Liverpool, knocking off Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the process. Mourinho's side would draw 0-0 at home and then lose 1-0 at Anfield to end their run.
With the success and all signs pointing toward the future, the Special One would return for the 2005-06 season.
Chelsea began where they left off. They won their first two games and never lost their position at the top of the table, winning their second consecutive Premier League title.
However, success elsewhere was non-existent. They were knocked out of the FA Cup in the semis and embarrassingly out of the Carling Cup in the third round after losing on penalties to lowly Charlton Athletic.
Their Champions League season that year ended more disappointingly than the previous. A draw against Barcelona in the first knockout round was too much for the Blues to handle as they lost 3-2 on aggregate.
During the summer of 2006, the coach would experience the beginning of the end. A disagreement between Mourinho and Abramovich over the signing of Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko would put tension on their relationship. Mourinho would ultimately be right in questioning the Russian's insistence on bringing the Milan man to London as he had little positive effect on the team.
Other signings would prove more productive. Bringing in Michael Ballack, Ashley Cole and Salomon Kalou were all helpful to that year's campaign.
It was a mixed season for Chelsea, winning the Carling and FA Cup, but losing out on their third straight Premier League title to Man U after finishing second.
But again Champions League was the focus.
Chelsea would advance all the way to that year's semis, where again they would lose out to Liverpool in dramatic fashion. Penalties at Anfield were too much for the Blues as they ended another Champions League in disappointment.
Throughout the season off-field tension plagued the Bridge. Further disagreements between Abramovich's staff appointments (including over Mourniho's future replacement, Avram Grant) and Mourinho made the atmosphere hostile. It was becoming quite obvious that at some point these two giant egos would need to subside or part ways.
The beginning of the 2007-08 season was not as prosperous as the others. After losing the Community Shield on penalties, Mourinho's side would have a record of 3-2-1. They would also only manage a 1-1 draw to the Norwegian side Rosenborg in the Champions League.
A combination of poor results and off-field tension saw Mourinho leave the club on "mutual consent." He left as the most successful coach in club history, winning six trophies in three years. He also had an impressive home streak, having never losing a league game at Stamford Bridge.
But even the Special One was unable to deliver Abramovich's precious Champions League.