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Frank Lampard’s Chelsea visit Real Madrid: has an interim manager ever won the Champions League?

The former Blues midfielder replaced Graham Potter and will take charge of just his second match at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

The former Blues midfielder replaced Graham Potter and will take charge of just his second match at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
ANDREW COULDRIDGEAction Images via Reuters

Sacking your manager a matter of days before a Champions League quarter-final doesn’t sound like ideal preparation for said tie and those who are in agreement would point to Manchester City’s 3-0 destruction of Bayern Munich on Tuesday, in what was only Thomas Tuchel’s fourth match in charge of the German giants. However, the former Chelsea coach has been in his new post twice as long as recently-appointed Blues interim boss Frank Lampard, who takes his team to face Real Madrid in Spain just a matter of days after his second dugout debut with the club at Wolves.

Chelsea’s disastrous 2022-23 season

Will Lampard fare any better than the man who replaced him first time around at Stamford Bridge? We’ll find out soon enough. It’s been a disastrous season in West London, with Chelsea, who had been tipped by many to challenge for the Premier League title, incredibly in the bottom half of the table after 30 games, a whopping 34 points behind leaders Arsenal and 17 points adrift of fourth place, the minimum required to ensure Champions League qualification for next season.

But there is another way they could qualify for the competition in 2023-24: beating Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, one of City or Bayern (almost certainly the former) in the last four, before triumphing against either Milan, Napoli, Benfica or Inter in the final in Istanbul.

Which interim manager has won the Champions League?

But how could a struggling team that’s not even in the top 10 in their own domestic league become European champions? And under an interim manager, no less? Surely that’s never been done before

Well, it turns out that it has (the second bit, at least). And you’ll never guess which club did it

Given Chelsea’s recent history of changing managers more than some people change their clothes, it perhaps shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that it was they who lifted the Champions League trophy with a caretaker in charge.

Back in the summer of 2011, the Blues appointed André Villas-Boas, very much expected to be the second coming of José Mourinho. That, however, didn’t quite materialise, with the Portuguese one of just three Chelsea bosses in the last 25 years to have won less than half of his matches in charge. Former Blues midfielder Roberto Di Matteo, who had got West Bromwich Albion promoted to the Premier League before being sacked, had been Villas-Boas’ assistant and was the man tasked with steadying the ship until the end of the season when the former Porto coach was sacked in March 2012.

That particular ship turned out to be the steadiest that has ever sailed, with an unspectacular but resilient Chelsea side managed by the Italian going on to defeat Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals, Barcelona in the semi-finals and Bayern Munich in their own stadium on penalties in the final.

Roberto Di Matteo: the greatest three months of management in soccer?

Despite poor performances in the league, Villas-Boas also left the Blues in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, which Di Matteo also went on to win – beating Liverpool in the final – in what must surely be the greatest three months of interim management in soccer.

Chelsea won two trophies under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo in 2012.
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Chelsea won two trophies under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo in 2012. Chelsea

The former Italy international was then appointed as full-time boss in the summer 2012 and, of course, things quickly came crashing down thereafter. Di Matteo left the club in November and was replaced by another high-profile caretaker in Rafa Benítez, who incredibly also went onto win a European trophy, the Europa League, in his short spell in charge.

Hansi Flick almost joined the club with Bayern

A special mention must also go to current Germany manager Hansi Flick, who initially took over from Niko Kovac as interim boss at Bayern Munich in December 2019 until the end of the 2019-20 but did such a good job that he was handed a three-year deal in April 2020, four months before the Bundesliga giants won the rescheduled Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon.


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