Looking Back at The Unsung Italian at Chelsea – Gianluca Vialli
Over the course of Chelsea’s history, there have been four Italians who have ruled the roost in their management stints. The exploits of Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo are well known, but not much has been written or will be about the other one. Today we take a look at one of Chelsea’s best committed professional manager, Gianluca Vialli.
After having a career spread over 20 years in professional football, Vialli is now working as a commentator for Sky Sports Italia. Vialli joined Italian giants Juventus in 1992 for a world record £12.5m deal from Sampdoria. At Turin, he won the Italian Cup, the Serie A, the Italian Supercup, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Cup. However, the Italian joined the shores at Chelsea in 1996 and had an equally good career in England. He also became the Blues’ player-manager the following season in 1997.
Playing in the highest echelons of Italian Football, Vialli helped himself to the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Unbelievably, he is the only player in European footballing history to have the winner’s and runner’s cup medals in all three main European club competitions. With a total of 286 goals in more than 500 appearances, Vialli could easily be regarded as one of Italy’s top goal-scorers besides Roberto Baggio. At Chelsea too, he boasted of 21 goals from 58 appearances.
Vialli joined the Blues for £600,000 a season during Dutch legend Ruud Gullit’s reign at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fans would remember his extra-ordinary double against fierce rivals Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA cup, which the Blues went on to win. The Italian, though, couldn’t cement a starting eleven place thanks to his feud with Gullit and was repeatedly left out of the team.
However, Gullit was sacked in February 1998, and Vialli was given the role of a player-manager at the club. Though the Blues finished fourth in the League, Vialli led them to triumphs in the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, an astonishing feat in his first season in charge. He, thus, became the then youngest manager to have ever won a European Cup. The next season, there came further glories as Chelsea beat Spanish giants Real Madrid to win the European Super Cup and came agonizingly close to snatching the Premier League trophy from eventual Champions Manchester United.
Vialli’s greatest achievement as Chelsea boss was guiding his team to a magnificent 3-1 win over Barcelona and despite finishing 5th in the League in 2000, he won the FA Cup. The next season was looking towards further silverware as he won the Community Shield, but he was sacked after just 5 games in charge after falling out with senior players like Gianfranco Zola and Didier Deschamps. Vialli next took up an unsuccessful role at Championship side Watford where he was sacked after just a year. Despite having a decorated International career, his strained relationship with coach Arrigo Sacchi was a major reason for the premature end to his career in Azzurri Blue.
Edited By: Girish Bhangre