Successful interim managers in Europe can be hard to come by. Perhaps that is because of the fact that these coaches step in during bleak times to start with. Or, it is because the coaches are not suitable for the challenge. Whatever it may be, finding a successful one can go a long way when it comes to rebuilding for the future, or even winning in the present.
Chelsea sacked Graham Potter after just 22 Premier League games in charge. In his stead, Bruno Saltor entered the fray. His first result was a scoreless draw at home to Liverpool. Yet, Chelsea quickly named Frank Lampard a more ‘permanent’ interim manager, if you will. Lampard returns to Stamford Bridge as the manager until the end of the season.
Chelsea is still in the Champions League, so there is something to play for. The Blues may be a massive underdog against Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich and Manchester City lurk in the semifinals, should they advance. Yet, interim managers in the past have had success, particularly at Chelsea.
Some of these interim managers include those with immense success, something the Englishman may lack. However, with a squad as expensive and talented as Chelsea‘s, Lampard will hope he can join the following names when it comes to success in a short stint.
Most successful interim managers in Europe
Roberto di Matteo – Chelsea
What better way to start than with Roberto di Matteo, the man who took over at Stamford Bridge and led the Blues to their first UEFA Champions League. Di Matteo stepped in for Andre Villas-Boas on March 4 of the 2011/12 campaign. With Chelsea picking up one win in five league games and a staggering 3-1 loss at Napoli in the Champions League round of 16, Roman Abramovich parted ways with Villas-Boas. Di Matteo, who was only an assistant at the time, took over with immediate success.
Chelsea defeated Birmingham City in an FA Cup replay. Then, the Blues picked up a league win against Stoke. Finally, rounding out a hectic nine-day spell, Chelsea pulled off a stunning comeback against Napoli in the Champions League. It required extra time, but Chelsea would move on.
From then on, Chelsea was a reformed team. While the Blues only finished sixth in the league, priorities were elsewhere. Chelsea knocked off both Leicester City and Tottenham in convincing fashion in the FA Cup. That set up an FA Cup Final tie against Liverpool, which Chelsea won, 2-1.
More famously, di Matteo led Chelsea to stunning victories in the Champions League. After easing past Benfica, Fernando Torres’s famous goal at Camp Nou sent Chelsea to its first European Cup Final. There, Didier Drogba’s 88th-minute equalizer set up a penalty shootout victory.
Chelsea did hire di Matteo on a permanent basis, but only lasted until late November in 2012.
Rafa Benitez – Chelsea
Di Matteo’s replacement was Rafa Benítez, who was out of a job for two years after Inter Milan sacked him. With Chelsea sitting in third, Benitez maintained that position for the remainder of the season, a three-spot improvement on di Matteo in the previous season.
Benitez could not find the same success as di Matteo. For instance, Chelsea reached the semifinals of both the League Cup and FA Cup, losing to Southampton and Manchester City, respectively. However, Benitez had no say over the future of Chelsea in the Champions League. He did, however, get the club into the Europa League by finishing third in its Champions League group.
Sparta Prague, Steaua București, Rubin Kazan and Basel fell to Chelsea in the knockout stages of the Europa League, setting up a tie with Benfica in the Europa League Final. For the second-straight season, Chelsea used late heroics to win a European trophy.
Unlike di Matteo before him, Chelsea did not hire Benitez on a permanent basis. Jose Mourinho stepped in for his second stint at Stamford Bridge, and Benitez was bound for Napoli.
Hansi Flick – Bayern Munich
In terms of raw trophies, no interim managers in Europe can match the successful stint of Hansi Flick. Even though Niko Kovac led Bayern Munich to a league and cup double in 2018/19, Bayern was struggling by its standards to start the 2019/20 campaign. With the club a simply terrible fourth in the Bundesliga, Bayern sacked its manager, and brought in Hansi Flick, an assitant under Kovac.
What Flick accomplished at Bayern in that first partial season is no less than incredible. Granted, Bayern Munich is always the most talented team in Germany. But, the dominance from the German giants did not stop there. In the Bundesliga, Bayern won 21 of 24 games under interim Flick. It also dispatched four Bundesliga teams in the DFB-Pokal, winning the German Cup in the summer after the COVID-19 hiatus.
Then, in the Champions League, Flick put together a perfect record. He defeated Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate. Then, in just one game, Bayern famously rocked Barcelona, 8-2. After knocking off Lyon in the semifinals, Bayern defeated PSG, 2-1, in the UEFA Champions League Final. Bayern claimed the treble, becoming the second club to win two trebles in Europe.
During the COVID-19 break, and before those three trophies, Bayern extended Flick to a permanent managerial contract.
Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid
At the turn of the calendar year to 2016, Real Madrid was third in the league and out of the Copa del Rey due to fielding an ineligible player. Rafael Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti at the beginning of the season, was out, much to the delight of the Real faithful.
In his stead, a club legend as a player stepped in after coming up from the B-team coaching staff. Zinedine Zidane found great success in his five months at the helm. Domestically, Real Madrid found almost unmatched form. Zidane’s Real Madrid had 17 wins, two draws and a loss in the league. While Los Blancos finished second to Barcelona by a lone point, the club rode that form in Europe.
The 2014 Champions League winners picked up aggregate victories over Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City. The reward was a rematch of that 2014 Final against Atletico Madrid. The victory on penalties clinched Real Madrid’s 11th title in the competition. In doing so, it secured Zidane’s spot as the permanent manager of Real Madrid in the following season.
Guus Hiddink – Chelsea
Perhaps the fact that Chelsea is on this five-person list three times indicates the club knows what it is doing when it sacks a manager in the middle of the season. Hiddink replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari in an up-and-down Chelsea season. At the time Hiddink arrived, Chelsea sat in fourth, with an upcoming challenging Champions League tie against Juventus. Moreover, the club was still alive in the FA Cup.
Hiddink thrived in each competition, losing just one game in his interim stint at Stamford Bridge. Despite the fact Chelsea only finished third, seven points back of Manchester United, it was a terrific turnaround. Hiddink dropped just four points in 13 games. He picked up a trophy with the FA Cup, as Chelsea knocked off Coventry City, Arsenal and Everton to lift the trophy.
It could have been a second trophy, too, if not for major controversy in the Champions League. In the semifinal tie against Barcelona, a number of controversial decisions went Barcelona’s way. Then, Iniesta shocked Stamford Bridge with a last-minute winner. Barcelona went on to defeat Manchester United in the Champions League Final.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Uk Sports Pics Ltd
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