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Chelsea FC – So Near, Yet So Far
Five Champions League semi-finals in the last six years. As newly appointed Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti pointed out in his first interview, this is a remarkable achievement. However, it is clearly not good enough. The fact that those five semi-finals have resulted in just one hapless final appearance must be a source of immense frustration for Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and the club’s supporters – though slightly less so for them, perhaps.
The reason older Chelsea fans might be a little more philosophical about reaching ‘only’ one final in five attempts is that many of them are probably still getting used to challenging for honors at all. Until 1997, when Chelsea won the FA Cup, the club had not won anything for 26 years – unless you include the old Second Division title. Chelsea’s fortunes in the 1980s, after they were bought by Ken Bates for the princely sum of £1, declined to such an extent that they almost found themselves in the third tier of English football.
But how did it return during the last decade of the century? Even before Abramovich’s arrival in 2003, the recovery process had begun. Managers of international pedigree Glenn Hoddle, Ruud Gulli, Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri all helped establish the club as one of England’s premier groups and the FA Cup was won in 1997 and 2000 and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998. The Chelsea of this era were ground-breaking in many ways – with their continental managers and their overseas players in particular – becoming the first club to take to the field with a team without a single British or Irish player in a match against Southampton in 1999.
So when the Russian oil tycoon brought in Champions League winner José Mourinho to take charge of the team in 2004, almost everyone doubted that the ‘special’ would create a special team.
And so it proved. The Premier League was won on two consecutive occasions, as well as the FA Cup again and the League Cup (twice). From March 2004, the team went on a record 86-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.
With some of England’s best players – John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley and Joe Cole – and some outstanding foreign imports – Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Nicholas Anelka – the world sat back and waited for the trophies to arrive. they continued. And especially for the ‘holy grail’ that Abramovich wanted so much; that Champions League.
And yet, for the last two seasons, Chelsea have flattered to deceive – and frustrated their supporters so much. There are times when they are so powerful that they defeat even the strongest opponents; almost bullying them into submission because of their physical and mental superiority. But there seem to have been some fatal flaws in the club’s makeup that have stopped them from making that ultimate breakthrough.
Some have said it’s because some of the overseas players haven’t committed enough; but then, when they showed their passion and commitment after the controversial defeat by Barcelona in 2009, the same players were criticized for their lack of sportsmanship.
Some have blamed successive managers for being unable to control ‘big’ players – as if that was ever a problem for someone like Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Some have even blamed Abramovich for losing patience with Mourinho too soon in 2007 or apparently losing some of his enthusiasm for the club for a while.
But now, having failed to convince the admirable Guus Hiddink to stay at the club following his revamp of the squad in his short spell at the helm, Chelsea have appointed someone who has won the Champions League trophy twice as a player and twice as a coach. . Surely, Stamford Bridge – a wonderfully atmospheric ground to watch your football in compared to some of the other more ‘soulless’ stadiums around – will be able to witness something that only the most optimistic fans would have dreamed possible. twenty years ago. ; a team capable of winning the Champions League.
If Carlo Ancelotti can’t bring the trophy, where on earth will he go next?
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