Sacked by Paris Saint-Germain on Christmas Eve, Thomas Tuchel is going back to the Champions League final for a second consecutive season after his rejuvenated Chelsea cruised past Real Madrid in the last four.
Tuchel said he felt like he had found “the best present still under the tree” when Chelsea came calling in January after sacking their all-time top goalscorer Frank Lampard.
The Blues’ billionaire owner Roman Abramovich did not allow sentiment to get in the way of making the tough call when Lampard failed to get the best out of a £220 million ($305 million) spending spree on new players last summer.
That investment has come good under Tuchel as Chelsea outclassed the might of Madrid in a 2-0 win on Wednesday to set up an all-English final in Istanbul on May 29 against Manchester City.
City’s 4-1 aggregate win over PSG in the other semi-final means Tuchel won’t get the chance for revenge.
But his reputation as one of Europe’s top coaches has been quickly restored, less than four months into his new role in west London.
Chelsea has lost just two of his 24 games in charge to also move into pole position to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League should they fail to upset City’s quest for a treble.
“When we started with the manager we were ninth in the league and now we reach everything – on the road to the top four, we can win the Champions League and the FA Cup,” said Timo Werner, who opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
“Our team is incredible. We are young, but not stupid to make easy mistakes.”
The turnaround in the Blues’ season has been built on a solid foundation.
For the 18th time under Tuchel, Chelsea kept a clean sheet with Madrid completely nullified bar one moment of magic from Karim Benzema midway through the first half that drew a fine save from Edouard Mendy.