Monday, 5 March 2012

Abramovich's Chelsea circus a far cry from a winning culture

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Pained expression: AVB at WBA in last minutes as boss
It was in June 2011 that Chelsea returned to Porto to hire the brightest young coach in European football.

33-year-old Andre Villas-Boas, with just eighteen months senior management experience, was poached having steered the Dragao-based club to Portuguese and Europa League titles.

Roman Abramovich superimposed the image of Jose Mourinho on the fledgeling coach in the clearest case of cosmic ordering ever scene in football. By leaving Porto for Chelsea with a European title, the instant comparisons with The Special One were either going to be flattering - or flattening. 

Less than nine months later, the Blues owner abandoned Villas-Boas, who'd originally been brought in for the long haul. Remember he'd replaced one of Europe's top coaches, Carlo Ancelotti, who'd steered Chelsea to a sweeping and stylish Double.
Mourinho and friend crushing Barca. Chelsea bound?
But Villas-Boas was swallowed whole by the Chelsea monster. He'll rightly receive massive compensation because being Chelsea boss is a surefire destroyer of reputation in record time. It serves Abramovich right for chasing old trophy glory like a gambler trying to recover his growing losses.

We're told his dismissal was administered with the usual Roman brutality: Villas-Boas was taking training when Abramovich called him in to his nearby Cobham mansion. His services were dispensed with immediately, then apparently the Russian stormed in and told the players they'd be sacked too if they didn't improve.

Sir Alex Ferguson says players lose managers their jobs and Frank Lampard is why the young Blues boss lost the dressing room. Whether you agree with Lampard or not, he should've kept his own counsel and not attracted the tabloid headlines with negative comments.

Perhaps Villas-Boas might've handled Lampard a little better: his relative inexperience as a man, let alone a manager means he'll think twice about how he deals with old-time egos in other dressing rooms - but he should've been given much more time to achieve his goals.

Lampard's Bernard Bresslaw look belies his "huge" IQ
Because he was trying different things at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti was sacked last summer because it was clear Lampard, Terry and Drogba, the ageing spine of the team, needed reconstruction - and he wasn't addressing it. 

Talk is rife of a sensational return for Mourinho, even iron-fisted Fabio Capello, with his English knowledge and specific experience of the team's big players, has been mentioned.

But whatever the temperament of the man Abramovich picks, he'll have to break up the Lamps and Terry Show and continue the rebuild that AVB had actually started to address quite clearly.

And there were signs it was coming together: David Luiz, Juan Mata and Ramires have talent in spades - the sort of ability that three straight league wins would've further inspired. Putting wayward Fernando Torres to one side, Chelsea were making a reasonable transition. More than a decent of chance of making the Champions League and still in the FA Cup.

The Jose fan club in the dressing room need to take a long hard look at themselves and if they think Mourinho's unlikely return will result in old times rolling, they'll need to think again. There's no way any incoming Chelsea manager will have any truck with troublesome thirtysomethings, who's time is running short.

The man's an island
And Villas Boas will have the last laugh too. While Lamps and Terry drift out of the game, the Portuguese will end up coaching in a top league again.

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