When things look bad for a team, the change of coach is usually the first action taken by the managers of the big clubs. There are times when it turns out well, like when Zidane replaced Benítez on the Madrid bench in January 2016 and ended up winning the first of his three Champions League in a row. And others in which it goes wrong. Quique Setién arrived at Barcelona in the middle of last season after the dismissal of Valverde, who had the leading team in the League. The title ended up taking Madrid and Bayern swept them in the Champions League with the biggest beating ever received by the Blaugrana club (2-8) in Europe.
But in the case of Chelsea, the movements on the bench have brought their greatest joys to the English club. Set blue will play this year the third final of the Champions League in its history. He will do it hand in hand with Thomas Tuchel, who came to the bench in January after the departure of Frank Lampard. On the other two occasions that they have played the title game, the coach who led them was not the same as the one who started the season.
The first time Chelsea reached the Champions League final was in 2008. Roman Abramovich, its owner, had landed in London five years earlier and handed the command of his star-studded squad to José Mourinho. The Portuguese won two Premier in a row, but never managed to overcome the semifinals of the Champions League. After the first day of the group stage of the 2007-08 season, Mourinho decided to leave the club due to disagreements with the Russian tycoon and he put Avram Grant, who was the sporting director, in charge. The Israeli was intended as a temporary patch until a reputable candidate was found, but ended up gaining continuity. After beating Liverpool in the semi-finals, with a vibrant overtime at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea reached their first Champions League final, in which Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United awaited.
Fortune did not smile at blues on that night in Moscow. Cristiano opened the scoring with an imperial header, but Lampard got the equalizer before the break. The scoreboard did not move and the match went to penalties. On the 7th he missed his shot and Terry was ready to finish the game on the fifth penalty. But the captain blue he slipped just before kicking and the ball went sky high. Manchester recovered and took the Orejona with the stop of Van der Sar to Anelka. Grant did not survive the defeat and was sacked 48 hours later.
Chelsea tried to return to the final in the following years, but the closest they came was in the 2009 semi-finals, when Iniesta silenced Stamford Bridge at the last minute. In 2011, Abramovich signed a pupil of José Mourinho, Andrea Villas-Boas, who had been trained with The Special One and he had just won the Europa League with Porto. But the result was not good, especially in the Premier, far from being able to fight for the title. After the first leg of the knockout stages of the Champions League in which they lost 3-1 to Napoli in March, the Russian showed the coach the exit door. Villas-Boas assistant Roberto Di Matteo took over a depressed team with a very veteran bloc of players. Drogba, Cech, Lampard and Terry hurried their last blows in the elite.
The players conspired, accepted the challenge and managed to overcome the tie against Naples in extra time. That victory was a morale boost for the team, which reached the semifinals against Guardiola’s Barcelona, their executioner three years earlier. The eliminatory was a resistance exercise of the blues. If in 2009 it was Guardiola who ran the Stamford Bridge band with Iniesta’s goal, in 2012 it was Di Matteo who could not contain himself with Torres’ goal in the last moments. Chelsea reached the final again, but were by no means the favorite to win the title. His rival was Bayern Munich, who had left Madrid out and played the final at their stadium.
Müller advanced to the premises, that besieged Chelsea without rest. But Drogba worked the miracle and got the tie in 88 to send the match into extra time. Robben missed a penalty as soon as the extension began and the final was decided from 11 meters. The ghosts of Moscow passed through the minds of veteran Chelsea players, especially after Mata missed the first pitch. Bayern did not miss any of their first three shots, but Cech appeared to deny both Olic and Schweinsteiger. Chelsea had the title in their hands again, and this time Drogba did not get nervous and fooled Neuer in the final launch. Abramovic finally got the Champions League that he had pursued so much.
Both Grant and Di Matteo reached the summit in those Champions League finals. Since then, their careers have gone downhill. The Israeli was fired two days after losing the final and the Italian lasted just half a season longer, after falling in the group stage. Neither of them returned to coach an elite club in Europe and are currently without a team. Tuchel, who was fired as a PSG manager after reaching the final last year, knows well what it’s like to be fired after touching glory. On May 29, Manchester City will test the German’s revulsive effect on the bench.