Martinez, Mancini and continental Chelsea: The EPL's third wave of foreign managers

With Arsene Wenger poised to celebrate 20 years as Arsenal manager on Thursday, FFT has decided to honour every foreign boss to grace (and often not) top-class football in England – all 50 of 'em. Here are numbers 21 to 30... 

21. Luiz Felipe Scolari (Chelsea)

  • 1 July, 2008 to 9 February, 2009

It started well: adopting Scolari’s system of a defensive central midfielder covering for penetrative full-backs, Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 12 games, including two 5-0 wins and three 4-0s

Champions League finalist or not, Avram Grant was never going to fill Jose Mourinho’s shoes. Chelsea needed the kind of guy whose nickname starts with Big; Sam Allardici not being quite to their taste, they went with Big Phil Scolari (who’s actually under six feet tall).

Chelsea was his 21st managerial position. He’d gone through the first 19 in 20 years, traipsing round Brazil (with trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Japan) collecting experience and a couple of Copas Libertadores until he was hired by the national team, leading them to a somewhat surprising triumph at the 2002 World Cup. He then led Portugal to the Euro 2004 final, World Cup 2006 semis and Euro 2008 quarters before the Blues managed to succeed where the FA had failed two years earlier in tempting him to England – the first non-European to manage a Premier League team since Ossie Ardiles 14 years earlier. (You're permitted to quibble over the Israeli Avram Grant.)

Luiz Felipe Scolari

Scolari was Chelsea's latest foreign appointment in 2008

It started well: adopting Scolari’s system of a defensive central midfielder covering for penetrative full-backs, Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 12 games, including two 5-0 wins and three 4-0s. But key losses to Liverpool, Roma, Arsenal and Manchester United helped turn an impatient fanbase and entitled squad against him, and he was gone within a quarter of his three-year contract. As a “shocked” John Terry put it, “He had my support, that's for sure. Two or three other players will say exactly the same thing.”

Scolari had admitted that finance was “one of the reasons” to take the Chelsea job, saying ”You only get this kind of opportunity once.” He has since coached in Uzbekistan (allegedly as the world’s highest-paid gaffer, on £200,000 per week), Brazil (including the national team for their home World Cup, which didn’t end well) and now China.

Luiz Felipe Scolari

Scolari's peripatetic nature has taken him to China, where he currently manages Guangzhou Evergande

22. Gianfranco Zola (West Ham)

  • 15 September, 2008 to 11 May, 2010

Wisely appointing top coach Steve Clarke as his sidekick, he made lemonade out of the Hammers’ questionable finances by promoting youth, rarely unpopular at Upton Park

When Alan Curbishley resigned over transfer policy – namely, selling or releasing several players – the Hammers were determined to go foreign: the shortlist was Slaven Bilic, Gerard Houllier, Roberto Donadoni, Roberto Mancini and Zola. The former Chelsea player was the outside candidate but got the job on the back of an impressive interview, and it’s perhaps a sign of his respect within the game that he was quickly backed by the West Ham fans despite those Blue links.

Zola’s first season included some savvy moves. Wisely appointing top coach Steve Clarke as his sidekick, he made lemonade out of the Hammers’ questionable finances by promoting youth, rarely unpopular at Upton Park. A notable emphasis on flair was also welcomed, and a ninth-place finish suggested that the good times were coming.

They weren’t. One win in their opening 10 left West Ham second-bottom, and January’s boardroom takeover by David Gold and David Sullivan didn’t help stability, especially when the latter labelled the team “pathetic” after a 3-1 loss to Wolves, then announced (without consulting Zola) that every player bar Scott Parker was for sale. The Hammers stayed up but Zola was replaced by Avram Grant; the following season they went down in last place.

23. Guus Hiddink (Chelsea)

  • 16 February, 2009 to 31 May, 2009 & 19 December, 2015 to 16 May, 2016

His career dipped a little, failing to reach tournaments with Russia (2010), Turkey (2012) and the Netherlands (2016), but he was still the obvious choice to help Chelsea overcome the bitter end of Mourinho’s second coming

Twice now Chelsea have turned in a crisis to the steady tiller-hand of Guus Hiddink. Not surprising, either, given his impact. Inheriting a disheartened dressing room in February 2009, he won 11 of his 13 games and took the club to within a late Andres Iniesta stunner of a second successive Champions League final, before bowing out with an FA Cup final victory over Everton which he clearly thoroughly enjoyed.

His record – World Cup semis in 1998 with Holland and 2002 with South Korea, Euro 2008 semis with Russia, six leagues and a European Cup with PSV – earned him respect, but so did his calm authority. No wonder fans and players clamoured (unsuccessfully) for him to extend his contract beyond the season.

Guus Hiddink

Hiddink guided Chelsea to the FA Cup during his first spell at Stamford Bridge

Thereafter, his career dipped a little, failing to reach tournaments with Russia (2010), Turkey (2012) and the Netherlands (2016), but he was still the obvious choice to help Chelsea overcome the bitter end of Mourinho’s second coming. This time the results weren’t so startling, but he reliably steadied the ship and guided them up four league places into the top half. Given that he’s still only in his sixties, and that at Stamford Bridge “managerial stability” means being featured on two successive Christmas calendars, he may yet be back again.

24. Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea)

  • 1 June, 2009 to 22 May, 2011

Roman Abramovich’s fourth overseas managerial hire in 21 months brought Chelsea a modicum of stability and the third-highest win percentage in Premier League history

Roman Abramovich’s fourth overseas managerial hire in 21 months brought Chelsea a modicum of stability and the third-highest win percentage in Premier League history, but didn’t fulfil the top-line managerial expectation: win the Champions League.

Ancelotti had led Milan to three UCL finals in five years, winning two of them. He wasn’t a league specialist – Milan had only won one Scudetto in his eight-year spell – but his first Chelsea campaign ended with 103 Premier League goals scored (the first top-flight century since Tottenham in 1962/63) and the domestic double.

However, by then Chelsea had lost home and away to Jose Mourinho’s Inter in the first Champions League knockout round, and the following season – having squeezed past Copenhagen – they again lost home and away, this time to Manchester United. When another Old Trafford loss in May signed the title over to Sir Alex Ferguson, Ancelotti’s fate was sealed and he was summarily fired in a Goodison corridor within two hours of the domestic final whistle. Of his six continental knockout games, the Italian had lost four and won just one. Time to roll the dice again.

25. Roberto Martinez (Wigan, Everton)

  • Wigan: 15 June, 2009 to 5 June, 2013
  • Everton: 5 June, 2013 to 12 May, 2016

Having spoken to Liverpool in summer 2012 (they went with his Swansea successor Brendan Rodgers instead) the Spaniard was kept in the Premier League by Everton, who wanted a change of style after David Moyes

Jesus Seba and Isidro Diaz. They were the rest of the Three Amigos signed by basement club Wigan Athletic in 1995 – nothing more, some suggested, than a publicity stunt by new owner Dave Whelan. But Martinez flourished, spending six years with the club before moving into management with Swansea, guiding them up into the second tier before switching – not without controversy – back to Wigan.

His four seasons as Latics gaffer mixed attacking brio with defensive naivety. They collapsed 9-1 at Spurs, shipped eight and six against Chelsea, and thrice lost 5-0 to Manchester United, but he stuck to his attractive philosophy and for every nightmare run (such as eight straight losses) there would be a saving sprint (seven wins in the last nine). Averaging 1.03 points per game under Martinez, they succumbed to gravity in 2013... and immediately won the FA Cup.  

Roberto Martinez

Martinez won plenty of plaudits at Wigan, despite overseeing their relegation to the second tier

Having spoken to Liverpool in summer 2012 (they went with his Swansea successor Brendan Rodgers instead) the Spaniard was kept in the Premier League by Everton, who wanted a change of style after David Moyes. It started well – a fifth-placed finish, a five-year contract – but Toffees fans were less forgiving of six-match winless runs, lower-half finishes and (as they saw it) baseless positivity. He was sacked before the end of the season to avoid protests at the club’s awards night.