The UEFA Champions League is indeed one of the most prestigious and widely renowned competitions in club football. And, history has recorded breathtaking campaigns from some of Europe’s finest clubs that eventually lifted the trophy. Some with experienced managers; others with managers who were only enjoying their first attempt at the competition. However, for the purpose of this topic, we will focus on Champions League winning managers who got hired mid-season.
Despite the highly demanding shifts involved in maintaining a place in European competitions and surviving domestically, some managers have gone ahead to win the UEFA champions league after only taking up their managerial roles mid-season.
Here’s a list of three managers who achieved this feat since the competition was renamed the UEFA champions league in 1992/1993:
1. Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea 2012.
Di Matteo spent six years at Chelsea as a player and achieved cult hero status. Chelsea appointed him as assistant manager to the men’s senior team in 2011, adding support to the efforts of the newly appointed manager Andre Villas-Boas.
The season started well domestically and in Europe but things would later get sour as results got poorer. Rifts between the manager and senior members of the squad led to the termination of Villa-Boas’s appointment on the 4th of March 2012. Di Matteo took over as caretaker manager for the rest of that season.
The Italian would go on to turn things around for good after his mid-season appointment. Notably, his Chelsea team recorded a 4-1 win over Napoli to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg of both team’s round of 16 tie.
The team recorded stunning victories over Benfica and Barcelona in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. Di Matteo’s Chelsea booked a place in the final against Bayern Munich and played at the Allianz Arena. The same arena served as the home stadium for the German club.
Many football fans tipped Bayern to win the game because the Germans had the better form and home advantage. But Di Matteo and his Chelsea team had a miraculous night as a Didier Drogba penalty ended the ensuing shoot-out. This handed the London team their very first UEFA Champions League trophy after the game ended 1-1 in regular time.
The feat no doubt earned Roberto Di Matteo a legend status as a Champions League winning Manager at Chelsea.
2. Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid 2016.
After spending time as a player at Real Madrid between 2001-2006, Zidane returned years later as senior team manager in January 2016. He replaced Rafael Benitez.
Zidane got to work immediately and sought to improve on the team’s form in all competitions. Zidane recorded impressive wins in the domestic league, including an ‘el Classico’ victory to end Barcelona’s 39 matches unbeaten run.
Interestingly, Zidane is one of the Managers who the Champions League as a Player as well.
However, Zidane’s most remarkable achievement in the same season was the team’s amazing run in Europe which led to a Champions League final. Zidane’s team was paired against fellow Madrid club and rivals Atletico Madrid.
The game ended in a penalty shootout victory for Real Madrid and earned the Spanish club the eleventh Champions League trophy. Zidane won the next two finals of the same competition to set a unique record among modern managers.
3. Hans-Dieter Flick, Bayern Munich 2020.
Flick is an ex-player of Bayern Munich player (1985-1990) and he was the German National team assistant manager for 8 years between 2006-2014.
Flick enjoyed an amazing run of success – including the 2014 World Cup trophy – with the manager, Joachim Low at the helm.
After a short stint as sporting director with the German Football Association, Flick joined Bayern Munich as assistant manager on July 1, 2019. The German then linked up with Niko Kovac.
Things changed quickly as Kovac left Bayern on mutual consent a few months later. Bayen promoted Flick to the role of interim manager on November 3rd, 2019. The German club later confirmed Flick as the permanent manager on December 22 of the same year.
Bayern under Hansi Flick became an unstoppable force rather quickly. They enjoyed winning runs in all competitions played during his first season especially in the UEFA Champions League. With Flick, the German club eventually won without recording a loss or draw in any game.
Bayern defeated Paris Saint Germain 1-0 at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon to cap off the season with a continental treble after also winning the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal.
Winning the UEFA Champions League is by far an easy task for any Football Manager in Europe. Even managers hired before the season starts struggle in the competition.
However, it is not an impossible task to win the trophy. As discussed, there are just 3 Champions League Winning Managers who got hired mid-season. Di Matteo, Zidane, and Flick are in the history book of the competition since it was renamed Champions League.
So, which of these 3 Champions League Winning Managers impressed you most?