Former Chelsea FC manager Gianluca Vialli says the Londoners are "destined to reach the top of European football" ahead of the UEFA Champions League final.
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Former Chelsea FC manager Gianluca Vialli believes the London side are "destined to reach the top of European football" as they prepare to meet Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League final.
Vialli led Chelsea to victory in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup as player-manager in 1998. Ten years on he says the London side are ready to make their mark on the greatest stage of all. "The Champions League is worth more and allows you to write a page in football's history," said Vialli who was a winner in the competition himself with Juventus in 1996. "Just reaching the final is a big achievement. Even if they don't win it this year it is only a matter of time. Chelsea are destined to reach the top of European football sooner or later."
Gianfranco Zola scored Chelsea's winner in the final against VfB Stuttgart a decade ago, and Vialli believes the Blues have a host of match-winners capable of turning the game again on Wednesday. "I like [Michael] Essien very much. However, I think the spine of the team can make the difference. Players like [Petr] Čech, [John] Terry, [Frank] Lampard and [Didier] Drogba are all great players and could be crucial.
"To beat United you need to go out without fear, but that won't be a problem because Chelsea have great players who are full of confidence. When two teams are so even, luck can prove decisive. Before the last game of the Premier League I said it would have been cruel if one of these two teams finished this great season empty-handed. United won the domestic title, now I hope Chelsea win the Champions League."
Vialli joined Chelsea in 1996 and his time at the club, first as a player, then player-manager and finally as manager, coincided with one of the most successful spells in their history. He was dismissed at the start of the 2000/01 campaign, but by then Vialli had already led Chelsea to victory in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, League Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000 and to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League the same season.
Chelsea fans retain a great affection for the former Italy striker and the 43-year-old says the feeling is mutual. "I played for four clubs during my career and for me it was like having four wives," Vialli said. "[UC] Cremonese, [UC] Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea. I met them, fell in love with them, lived together for a while and then we went our separate ways. I still love Chelsea, especially the fans. It will always be a special club for me.
"Chelsea are like a beautiful wife who married a richer man after leaving me," continued Vialli, who has seen the club transformed by the wealth of owner Roman Abramovich since his departure. "A wife which was probably more fascinating when she was less sophisticated and simple, but still makes your head turn when you watch her. I really enjoyed coaching Chelsea. It was a different atmosphere with less money and a more familiar environment.
"There were great players who I knew and appreciated. On paper it looks easier for a coach now as there are more financial resources available, but there are also bigger expectations and there is more pressure on players and coaches to achieve results. On one hand it's easier, on the other it's more difficult, but yes, I would have liked to coach under Abramovich."