Because of a beginning of the new season definitely below the expectations of the club, especially as regards the performance in the Premier League (19 games, 6 defeats, 29 points, 11 behind the top team, Manchester United), Chelsea decided to fire their manager again, changing Frank Lampard and appointing German Thomas Tuchel, the 14th different coach of the Roman Abramovich era (Josè Mourinho and Guus Hiddink trained in two different periods). In short, a new chapter has begun, another reset. Certainly not a novelty for the supporters of the London team who over the last twenty-five years have seen completely different managers, hundreds of footballers and many champions, also achieving many winnings and important triumphs. But if there is anything they have never been able to experience, it has been continuity.
At the turn of the 2000 the footprint of the team is definitely Made in Italy, Gianluca Vialli (who started as player manager in 1998) and Claudio Ranieri alternate on the bench and in the roster, which oscillates between sixth and second place at the end of the seasons, there were many Italian footballers: Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Carlo Cudicini, Gabriele Ambrosetti, Samuele Dalla Bona, Christian Panucci and even Luca Percassi, the current CEO of Atalanta who very few remember as a player. Until the age of the Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who bought the club in the summer of 2003, and the passing of the baton between Ranieri and Josè Mourinho, the Blues squad remains mainly of European base with two little colonies that undoubtedly stand out: the French one (Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf, Didier Deschamps, Claude Makelele, William Gallas and Emmanuel Petit) and the Dutch one (Ed de Goeij, Winston Bogarde, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mario Melchiot and Boudewijn Zenden). Among the most ‘exotic’ protagonists there were the Nigerian Celestine Babayaro, the Uruguayan Gus Poyet, the Australian Mark Bosnich and – short but intense – a cameo by the Liberian George Weah.
The era officially begins in 2004 and coincides with the period in which Chelsea began to invest heavily in the transfer market, overspending money to bring the new Portuguese manager’s requested players to build a strong team. Mou already finds at your disposal John Terry and Frank Lampard, two English youngsters destined to become the symbols of the winning Chelsea that we all remember, and starts the new cycle in a big way, immediately winning the Premier League title at the first attempt. In the meantime he surrounds himself with trusted people with whom he had already worked at Porto and therefore with compatriots: Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Tiago Mendes, Maniche, some will also remember Hilario, Nuno Morais and Filipe Oliveira (while Josè Bosingwa, Deco, Raul Meireles and Ricardo Quaresma will only arrive later). When, after two championships, two League Cups, an FA Cup and a Community Shield won and two Champions League semi finals reached in 2005 and 2007, the Israeli Avram Grant takes over the current season, finding not anymore a European group but a very heterogeneous one full of prestigious players: in addition to the faithful side of Portuguese guys, footballers of 22 different countries. From the Argentinian Hernan Crespo and Franco Di Santo to the Cameroonian Geremi, from the Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko to the Peruvian Claudio Pizarro, from the Israelis Tal Ben Haim and Ben Sahar to the Icelandic Eidur Gudjohnsen. A few months after taking his new role, the team playing on automatic pilot and will end up in the Champions League final for the first time in its history, against fellow countrymen Manchester United, but will only lose on penalties under the Moscow rain.
Simply these are the years of International Chelsea: Grant will be followed, in almost two years, by the Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, the English Ray Wilkins and the Dutch Guus Hiddink, until the arrival of the Italian Carlo Ancelotti. Abramovich does everything to allow the team to establish itself on English soil where a very strong competition has been established with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, and above all to triumph in Europe, to definitively write the history of the club. But Chelsea, which is now practically impossible to refine on the market with new signings, still fails in the Champions League campaings, for three consecutive seasons: first in the semi finals against Barcelona, then in the round of 16 against the former manager Mourinho’s Inter Milan, then again in the quarter finals against Manchester United. Carlo Ancelotti, despite his home triumphs, leaves room for another Portuguese and talented manager, André Villas-Boas, who like Mourinho has just finished an experience on the Porto bench. The team is doing badly in the league (they will end in sixth place), and Villas-Boas was sacked even in March after yet another bad defeat. This time the interim coach was the former player Roberto Di Matteo, with no experience as a coach of such an important team, but he become the protagonist of the unexpected victory of Munich in 2012. The Blues hardly exceed the group stage with Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk, then recover a 3-1 down in Naples, winning in extra time in the second round, overtake Benfica and, in an incredible way, Barcelona too. In the final match, against the home side of Bayern Munich without many starters, the decisive man was surely Didier Drogba, who scored the goal and the decisive penalty. But if we want to make a more detailed analysis, one of the strengths of the whole team is the African group made up not only of the Ivorian striker, but also of the Ghanaian Michael Essien, the Nigerian John Obi Mikel and the other Ivorian Salomon Kalou.
Di Matteo stays in charge for only eight months, and in his place comes the Spaniard Rafa Benitez. At the same time Cesar Azpilicueta, who joins his compatriots Oriol Romeu, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Although the group remains very mixed, Chelsea season after season becomes a very appreciated destination for Brazilians: David Luiz, Alex and Ramires are joined by Willian, Oscar, Filipe Luis, Pato, Kenedy, Walace and Lucas Piazon, even if continuously sent on loan. With Benitez, Chelsea play a fluctuating season, but never convincing: without Drogba, who ended up his career in Turkey, the Blues exited early from the Champions League and then won the Europa League, but also lost in the FIFA Club World Cup final against Corinthians. They decided to change the manager again, and in June 2014 Mourinho returned. There are still Lampard and Terry among the most important players of the team, in addition to veterans Gary Cahill, Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic, there is a Belgian boy arrived from France, Eden Hazard. (Who would then be the only Belgian together with Thibaut Courtois on whom Chelsea decided to bet unlike Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku). In 2015 Mourinho brings Chelsea back to the first spot and won the Premier League, also because in the meantime the Spanish group has managed to establish itself and strengthen more: among the main protagonists of the results there were also Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, to whom, after others three switch on the bench (Steve Holland, Hiddink again and Antonio Conte) join Marcos Alonso and Pedro, absolutely decisive for the winning of the Premier League in 2017. Alvaro Morata will arrive only the following year, Kepa Arrizabalaga later.
After two years with Antonio Conte as the boss, there was the time of another Italian manager much celebrated at home, the former banker Maurizio Sarri. His only season in England (with an all-Italian staff including assistants Gianfranco Zola, Paolo Vanoli and Luca Gotti) turns out to be full of difficulties but ends with the Europa League triumph against Arsenal, however his period in London is to be considered too short to root something deep, unlike the arrival of Frank Lampard. The former captain and recordman of the Blues meanwhile has gained experience in the Championship with Derby County, touching the promotion to the Premier League, and deserves to sit on the bench of his former team for the 2019/2020 season: he is asked to renew the spirit of the squad from which Hazard, Fabregas and Cahill left and he immediately shows that he has clear ideas: he immediately surrounds himself with young British to start his era, relying on their talent and the resources of the Chelsea youth sector. He immediately launches Mason Mount with whom he has already worked, but also Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James. Then, the following season, he asked for another Englishman in the transfer market window, Leicester left back Ben Chilwell. But after spending a lot and badly during the last summer, after a season and a half the project for Chelsea with British DNA is badly wrecked. And once again, also due to the abundance that he found himself having to manage and the desire to buy as much as possible after the previously imposed incoming market ban, when perhaps there was really no need.
Today, Chelsea seem to have taken a German soul: perhaps it’s a bit early to say, but the identity card of the new manager, the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain Thomas Tuchel, who will try first of all to try to stimulate new arrivals, disappointing up to now: Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. He’s not only a coach contractually free to accept, but one already capable of reach authentic sporting achievements such as those of bringing Mainz to a European spot, and of earning a reputation as a great strategist at home, where in reality he has been defined as a “Sportwissenschaftler”, literally “sports scientist”. He will find his compatriot Antonio Rudiger, his old market obsession; but also Christian Pulisic, the American already coached in Dortmund, and Thiago Silva, with whom he won in France and played in the last Champions League final. The first official match was a boring 0-0 home match against Wolverhampton, but useful to give some indications on how the Blues will play, a 4-2-3-1 that can become a 4-1-4-1 in which the intention is to pass the ball much more (there were 820 passes and 78.9% of ball possession): Tuchel will be able to resist the impatience and frenzy of the club and follow in the winning footsteps of the other German of England, Jurgen Klopp?