As a man who represented the Blues in the 1990s, both as a player and manager, Ruud Gullit, who recently popped into Cobham to catch up with his friend Roberto Di Matteo, believes the best is yet to come from the current table-toppers.
Signed from Serie A in 1995, the Dutchman enjoyed a successful stint as a Chelsea player before being handed the managerial reins when Glenn Hoddle departed to take charge of England.
Gullit landed the club’s first major trophy for 26 years when we won the FA Cup in 1997, and the man who was responsible for luring Di Matteo to the club from Lazio believes the Italian has done a tremendous job thus far.
‘I’ve been very impressed,’ Gullit tells the official Chelsea website. ‘Robbie [Di Matteo] wanted to change a few things because when you take over halfway through a season it’s not easy.
‘He started with the fundamentals, the defence, and he won a lot with that. He’s now starting to build something offensively, but we haven’t seen the best of Chelsea yet, that still has to come, but I’m very pleased with the way the team has progressed.
‘Sometimes you need luck; he was here as an assistant so all of a sudden he was in charge, but that’s not easy and I think he handled it very well.’
There is no escaping the fact that there has been a significant transition in the brand of football currently on display, particularly when compared with recent years.
That, of course, has been aided by the acquisition of players such as Oscar and Eden Hazard who, along with the in-form Juan Mata, have played a pivotal role in our unbeaten start to the league campaign.
Gullit was responsible for the coining of the term ‘sexy football’ during his time as a pundit at Euro ’96, a phrase which stuck when he was in charge at Stamford Bridge due to his implementation of a free-flowing, expansive game, and he admits there are similarities in what Di Matteo is trying to do.
‘He’s bringing good football back, he knows how to do that,’ explains the former World Player of the Year. ‘In those days he was at Chelsea, along with Eddie Newton, so the club are in good hands.
‘It’s more the mentality of the team, we have more players who can keep hold of the ball better now, and if you have the ball you can score goals.’
The Champions League triumph at the end of last season was a night that nobody connected with the club will ever forget.
Gullit was present in Munich for that never-to-be-forgotten final, and took great satisfaction from seeing his good friend achieve what so many managers had tried – and failed – to do in previous years.
‘I was there all the way through,’ he explains. ‘We were a little bit lucky but sometimes you deserve luck. Everybody thought that it was the end of their time at Chelsea for a lot of the players.
‘I just felt it was destiny, I said it throughout all of the games, and also on television, and that’s how it turned out. In the end I had to laugh, because whatever the opposition were trying to do they couldn’t score.
‘For me, it was just a great feeling that Chelsea won the competition because they had wanted it for so long and then finally got it at a moment when you least expected it, and that’s the best feeling, it’s like scoring a goal in the last minute of a game.’
Next up for the Blues is a trip to White Hart Lane and a reunion with former manager Andre Villas-Boas, whose Tottenham Hotspur side are currently in a rich vein of form.
Asier Del Horno and Damien Duff were our goalscorers the last time we emerged from N17 with all three points, back in 2005, but Gullit sees Tottenham’s impressive run of late as a source of encouragement.
‘In my days it was common for Chelsea to win at Spurs, but that’s football, things change,’ he says.
‘Of course, Robbie wants to win and put things right, so therefore it’s an extra motivation for the players. It’s going to be tough, they are a good team as well and I’m looking forward to the game.
‘Tottenham are a team full of confidence and that means they will look to attack, if they do that there will be more room in behind their defence to take advantage of.’
While it’s certainly been a solid start to the season for the Blues, between now and next May there will be plenty of difficult tests to overcome.
It’s abundantly clear that there is more than enough quality within the squad to ensure another successful season for the club, but, as Gullit admits, only time will tell.
‘We don’t know yet, it’s only the beginning of the season and there are still some things to work on,’ he says.
‘Defensively, we’ve conceded a few goals but in terms of possession, we’ve had more than ever, which is a good thing.’
Ruud Gullit can be viewed talking to Chelsea TV via the channel’s online access.