by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Nine years ago, Andre Villas-Boas was FC Porto’s DVD guy. He worked closely with compatriot, Jose Mourinho, scouting the opposition and providing important information about them. Villas-Boas’ pre-match duties included making personalised DVDs for each of the players, highlighting their direct opponent with emphasis on their strengths and weaknesses. And his contribution, though minute, brought success to the team. By the time he left the club with Mourinho to Chelsea, he had won two league titles: the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.
“Villas-Boas must like DVDs and movies. Even on the pitch, he takes the position of a film director, crouching like a tiger to get a better angle…”
When he later left Mourinho’s tutelage and became coach of FC Porto, he continued with his modus operandi. FC Porto ended the previous season in third place and during his first session with his new players, he forced them to sit down and watch a specially prepared DVD of Benfica celebrating their league title. His message was poignant: “Watch that. Remember how much it hurts. And make sure it’s you celebrating next May.”
His success in Portugal attracted a certain Russian billionaire in West London. And sometime in the summer of 2011, Abramovich, splashed a whooping 13 million euros for his services – it was the most expensive managerial signing ever. The obvious question is, did he also show Chelsea a special DVD compilation of Manchester United riding through the streets with their record-equalling 19th league trophy? I very much doubt it.
Villas-Boas must like DVDs and movies. Even on the pitch, he takes the position of a film director, crouching like a tiger to get a better angle or conducting the movement of his players with an outstretched arm. He might not have the ability to seduce players, fans and the media like Mourinho can. He might not have that godly arrogance of his mentor, but he’s just as passionate about the game.
However, that is not what Abramovich wants. He demands that his team plays ‘attacking’ football like Barcelona and Arsenal, and win more trophies than Manchester United. One of the trophies he craves for the most is the Champions League – the acclaimed ‘Holy Grail’.
The burden should not rest on Villas-Boas’ shoulders alone, some of his players have overwhelmingly underperformed. Mr Torres comes to mind readily. He is the man who should be banging in the goals, as Drogba has seen his better days and Sturridge frustrates more than he inspires.
On another note, if we think about it, when it comes to sacking coaches who do not deliver, Abramovich can be ruthless. The World Cup winning Scolari and Ancelotti, who had won two Champions League trophies in the past were spared and Villas-Boas knows all about this. “For our Premier League challenge to remain alive we need to make the most of the December fixtures,” he said earlier this week. “The Champions League is a life and death situation. We need to play with desire. You can feel Stamford Bridge is anxious when we play at home.”
The next three matches are: an away game to Newcastle – a potential ‘banana skin’, a crucial Champions League game with Valencia, which will ensure qualification to the next round and a home game to high flying Manchester City. If the Blues continue with their miserable form, it might just be time for the Russian to send the Portuguese manager-turned-film director back into the labour market.