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Chelsea's history of Italian managers a mixed bag with Conte to arrive

Italy coach Antonio Conte will replace interim manager Guus Hiddink in the summer and he'll become the fifth Italian manager to sit in the dugout at Stamford Bridge. ESPN FC takes a look at the previous four.

Gianluca Vialli, February 1998 - September 2000

Few men have ever arrived at Stamford Bridge to quite as much fanfare as Vialli, who signed to play for Chelsea on a lucrative free transfer in the summer of 1996 only weeks after winning the Champions League with Juventus.

Vialli's time as a player and manager with the Blues was remarkably successful but defined by conflict. A feud with boss Ruud Gullit saw him relegated to the fringes of the squad until the Dutchman clashed with Chelsea's firebrand chairman Ken Bates and left in a storm of acrimony in February 1998.

"If you are used to being the star or one of the best players, being put to the side hurts," Vialli said years later of his treatment at the hands of Gullit. "It hurts your pride, your feelings and your personality.

"It was also difficult because Ruud, who was a very influential manager at the club, in my opinion didn't have the sensitivity or the ability to deal with situations like that. There wasn't a lot of talking, there wasn't a lot of communication and I didn't know why I was left on the bench."

Vialli replaced Gullit as player-manager in February and almost immediately led Chelsea to victory in the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup. In his first full season in charge, the Blues beat Real Madrid in the European Super Cup and finished third in the Premier League.

His second full campaign yielded a run to the Champions League quarterfinals and a fourth major trophy in the 2000 FA Cup final -- the last ever at the old Wembley Stadium -- making him at that time the most successful coach in Chelsea's history.

A 1-0 win over Aston Villa earned Gianluca Vialli's Chelsea the 2000 FA Cup.
A 1-0 win over Aston Villa earned Gianluca Vialli's Chelsea the 2000 FA Cup.

But all was not well off the field. Senior Chelsea players accused Vialli of the kind of aloofness that he had once perceived in Gullit and there were even reports of a rift with Gianfranco Zola, his old friend and a Stamford Bridge idol.

Vialli was sacked just six matches into the 2000-01 Premier League season. In the official release announcing his departure, Chelsea claimed it was time "to seek a change of direction". That change turned out to be Claudio Ranieri.

Claudio Ranieri, September 2000 - May 2004

When picking Vialli's successor, Chelsea hoped to identify a man who could turn them into Premier League champions. Having never worked in England and never won a league title at any of his seven previous clubs, the experienced but understated Ranieri was a surprising choice.

"I have always believed that the future of football lies in changing the system -- in every game, and during the game," Ranieri told the British media before the start of his first full season. "It is my way." He quickly gained the moniker "Tinkerman" due to his penchant for tweaking his players and tactics between and during matches.

Ranieri also made big personnel decisions that broke with Chelsea's past and lay the foundations for the club's future. Out went fan favourites Dennis Wise, Gus Poyet, Frank Leboeuf and Tore Andre Flo, in came future stalwarts William Gallas and a certain Frank Lampard. A fresh-faced John Terry displaced Marcel Desailly at the heart of the defence and Eidur Gudjohnsen was paired with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink up front to prolific effect.

Chelsea's worsening financial problems altered Ranieri's remit and guiding the club to Champions League qualification in the 2002-03 was his greatest achievement. New owner Roman Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge soon afterwards and brought with him an almost limitless budget for new signings.

Prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, Claudio Ranieri guided the Blues to a second place finish.
Prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, Claudio Ranieri guided the Blues to a second place finish.

More than £120 million was splashed out in a single summer to establish Chelsea as a dominant force, but trophies eluded Ranieri. Finishing second to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal "Invincibles" in the Premier League, the Italian's stock was shattered by a series of farcical decisions as the Blues crashed out of the Champions League at the semifinal stage to Monaco.

Jose Mourinho's supremely organised Porto team succeeded where Ranieri's Chelsea had failed against Monaco in the final, winning 3-0, and "The Special One" was immediately chosen by Abramovich to take over at Stamford Bridge.

Carlo Ancelotti, July 2009 - May 2011

By the summer of 2009, winning the Champions League had become an obsession for Abramovich. Chelsea were still smarting from a controversial semifinal exit to Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in which Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo had stolen the headlines, and one piece of silverware remained very noticeably absent from the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet.

Ancelotti appeared the perfect man to deliver it. Winner of Europe's elite club competition four times -- twice as a player, twice as a coach -- at AC Milan, he had unrivalled pedigree. Eight years of answering to Silvio Berlusconi also seemed the perfect preparation for dealing with Chelsea's notoriously opinionated and ruthlessly ambitious owner.

Yet instead it was on the domestic front that Ancelotti succeeded in writing himself into Chelsea folklore.

In his debut season in English football, he re-cast Mourinho's relatively charmless winning machine into the Premier League's entertainers, racking up a record 103 goals en route to the title. Didier Drogba and Lampard both enjoyed the most prolific campaigns of their careers, with the Ivorian claiming the Golden Boot. An FA Cup success followed against Portsmouth, securing the Blues' first ever double.

Carlo Ancelotti's 2009-10 Chelsea won both the FA Cup and the Premier League.
Carlo Ancelotti's 2009-10 Chelsea won both the FA Cup and the Premier League.

Champions League glory, however, moved further into the distance. Mourinho's Inter picked off Chelsea in the round of 16 on their way to the 2010 crown, while the following season Sir Alex Ferguson's resurgent Manchester United ended the Blues' domestic and European dreams.

Ancelotti's disappointing return in the Champions League was compounded in the eyes of Abramovich by a failure to assimilate £50m signing Fernando Torres, who went on to suffer a spectacular career decline at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti was sacked in a Goodison Park corridor less than an hour after a 1-0 defeat away to Everton on the final day of the 2010-11 Premier League season.

Roberto Di Matteo, March 2012 - November 2012

Already a club legend due to his trophy-winning exploits as a Chelsea player under Gullit and Vialli, Di Matteo was a popular choice to step into the managerial breach when dressing room unrest and a run of three wins in 12 matches ended Andre Villas-Boas' tenure after just eight months.

Three points adrift of fourth place in the Premier League and 3-1 down to Napoli after the first leg of a Champions League round of 16 tie, Di Matteo was faced with a season on the verge of implosion. But while he could not prevent Chelsea's domestic form from petering out, the Italian salvaged the campaign in the most spectacular way possible.

Tottenham were dismissed and Liverpool were edged out as Chelsea claimed their fourth FA Cup triumph in six years at Wembley, but there was even greater glory to come at the Allianz Arena a fortnight later.

Roberto Di Matteo's tenure at Chelsea was brief, but it included the club's lone Champions League title in 2012.
Roberto Di Matteo's tenure at Chelsea was brief, but it included the club's lone Champions League title in 2012.

A 4-1 victory over Napoli at Stamford Bridge in March had set in motion a miraculous Champions League run in which Chelsea saw off Benfica as well as beating Pep Guardiola's Barcelona and, in an astonishing final, Jupp Heynckes' Bayern Munich -- a team that would go on to complete a Treble the following season.

Di Matteo had become the man to finally deliver the Champions League trophy to Abramovich, and the combination of his caretaker achievements and hero status among Chelsea fans compelled the reluctant Russian to hand him a two-year contract to become permanent manager the following summer.

Abramovich's patience lasted just four months into the new season. Di Matteo was sacked after a 3-0 defeat to Juventus left a rebuilding Chelsea on the brink of a Champions League group stage exit, and Rafa Benitez was picked to be his hugely unpopular replacement.

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.


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