Who Are ‘The Greatest Interim Managers’ in Football?

Interim managers sometimes provide with a magical spell. Which enchants the football world with some deeds, which seemed nearly impossible at the beginning of the season for the club.

When push comes to shove and a managerial appointment just isn’t working out, saying goodbye. And changing mid-season is often the right thing to do.

It’s harsh and quite often risky, with clubs most usually in the position hinging their survival hopes on the sack and switch. Managers aren’t always easy to come by, though, particularly in making sure to find the right one.

An interim or caretaker manager has the chance to book themselves into the main event. Permanent role with a good performance on a stand-in basis. And while that doesn’t always work out, the interim spells deserve some credit. Here are 5 of the most notable.

5. Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Zidane, Real Madrid

Having been groomed in the assistant manager role and being given responsibility of the Castilla side, Zidane was ready for the role in January 2016.

Zizou took over mid-season and would actually sign a longer term deal, and hit the ground running to go with it. Real finished La Liga runners up after ending Barcelona’s winning streak and clinched the Champions League against rivals Atletico Madrid. That was the beginning of the future.

4. Rafa Benitez (Chelsea)

Benitez, UEL

Stepping in after yet another Chelsea manager sacking, Rafa Benitez took interim charge of the Blues in November 2012.

Despite the hostility surrounding previous comments as Liverpool boss, Benitez proved key. He guided Chelsea to a second consecutive European title as they won the Europa League, changing the fans’ perception of him as he also took the club to a third place finish and didn’t overstay his welcome.

3. Guus Hiddink (Chelsea 2009)

Hiddink, Chelsea

A World Cup winning Luiz Felipe Scolari was dismissed in February 2009, and Hiddink was drafted in to salvage a disappointing season – his first Chelsea stint.

He split duties between Chelsea and the Russian national team, losing just once with the Blues and wrapping up with the 2009 FA Cup. Agonisingly close to the league title, they’d found a solid pair of spare hands in the Dutchman.

2. Hansi Flick (Bayern Munich)

Flick, Bayern

Despite winning the Bundesliga in his maiden season in charge, Niko Kovac was dismissed by Bayern in October 2019 following a string of poor results that left them in a real scrap to retain the title.

With RB Leipzig pushing, new assistant Hansi Flick stepped up and dramatically galvanised Die Roten. Suddenly, they were a pressing machine and blitzed their way to another Bundesliga title, while also becoming Champions League and DFB-Pokal winners for the continental treble.

1. Roberto Di Matteo (Chelsea)

Di Matteo, UCL

Another Chelsea entry tells you all you need to know about their sacking managers habit.

It’s even worse knowing that it kind of works. Di Matteo – a Chelsea hero already – stepped up following a rather drastic failure from Andre Villas-Boas. Taking the job in March, he won Chelsea the FA Cup, before going one better and winning them their first ever Champions League against Bayern Munich. The caretaker appointment of dreams.

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