Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Abramovich's Last Gamble

So it has happened, Chelsea have gone and got another special manager.  A special manager for a special team you may say, that is certainly what they will think on the Kings Road.  Following the swiftness and harshness of Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal after the last game of the season in a corridor of Goodison Park, it became apparent that Chelsea were urgently requiring a newly appointed manager sooner rather than later, two reasons: can you imagine another top four contending side unable to get a manager before July when one is required, also the transfer window is open and they need to start refreshing the squad that was left trophyless following a double in the season previously.

However, the appointment on Wednesday 22nd June of FC Porto's young manager, Andre Villas-Boas, following his resignation from the team he led to the Europa League title in May; means that he like so many has followed the money to London town and the chance to follow in the footsteps of his Porto predecessor, Jose Mourinho as one of the few men to win back to back the two major European trophies. 

Whilst Mourinho's achievement of winning the UEFA Cup (defeating Celtic) and then the next season winning the Champions League was a watermark for the nearly men; Mourinho showed that coaching and an experienced unified side can win it all.  Unfortunately, this was the last time a Champions League was won by a team outside of the powerhouse nations of England, Spain and Italy.  Villas-Boas has a greater chance of winning the continent's premier competition with England's second best side, than he would with Portugal's championship side

However, this appointment is less about the man being appointed and less even about the men overlooked for the job - the whole Hiddink compensation game was getting messy; it is again about the man who has hand picked his new manager.

For Roman Abramovich, this is seemingly the last throw of the dice to cement Chelsea as the dominant club side of the nation.  Manchester United are the champions, and in pole position to reclaim that title with a rejuvenated Fergie at the helm and with the promise of fresh faces.  Manchester City may have got into the Champions League, but look likely to lose their talisman Tevez and in spite of unlimited funds look likely to add little to the squad.  Arsenal maintain to toe that line between transition and unable to fulfil their definite promise, and look likely to lose captain Fabregas to the Catalan capital.  Liverpool seem resurgent with new squad members already joining the second Dalglish revolution.

The reason this appointment means more about Roman than Andre, is that Roman needs to retain the Premier League title and get back to the Champions League final.  Boas will be under no disillusion, he will be expected to create results and win trophies in his first season - quite a baptism of fire for a 33 year old manager in his first season of managing his first club overseas.  Having been unable to appoint his first two choices in Hiddink and unable to entice Mourinho back to his previous home, Roman has appointed a man with a fine looking CV; however Porto have been dominant in the Portugese league for many years and do not be surprised if their new manager wins the league title.

Boas does not need to live up to the example of Mourinho, although the similarities between the two are very apparent - both started as translators for Bobby Robson, both did not fulfil great playing careers, both managed Porto and now both left for the pastures of Kensington and Chelsea.  However, he is in danger of possibly ruining his reputation before it has even started.

Will Roman give Boas the necessary two seasons to garner the rewards? Will Boas (who is fluent in English) be able to cripple the apparent player-power of brokers Terry, Lampard and Cole and create a new sense of unity and stability that Mourinho did in his stint?  And what if the appointment proves to be disastrous, with results not reflecting the faith Roman has?  Will he pull the trigger if necessary, and will we be looking at another Roy Hodgson situation, where a good manager gets the big club appointment too soon.

And what if Abramovich does prove to be ruthless again in his sacking of another manager, that might be the end of his tenure as any manager would rightly suggest why go and coach for a man who is so ruthless as to not give you the real time required to gain results.

Whatever the outcome the £13.3m compensation Porto has received suggests that Chelsea may well have pulled off the transfer coup of the summer, and he it is not even for a player.


  1. Good piece although (believe it or not) Villas-Boas is 33 years old. Crazy.

  2. Some very good writing but I think you need to get details right as well, which you didnt.,

  3. Fair point gents, corrections have been made now. Thanks for input