by ‘Ifreke Inyang
257 days ago, he was the hottest ‘wunderkid’ in football management. On the back of an astonishing season with FC Porto, Roman Abramovich paid out a cheque of about 13.3 million pounds to acquire the services of the 34-year-old.
Perhaps that gave Andre Villas-Boas all that confidence. Don’t misunderstand me. The former Mourinho understudy mirrors the god-like arrogance of his mentor, but he arrived at Stamford Bridge with extra confidence.
Little wonder after Chelsea lost to Liverpool in a Premier League game last November, he famously said, “The owner didn’t pay 15m euros to get me out of Porto to pay another fortune to get me out of Chelsea.” He didn’t do his homework well. It cost the Russian 28 million pounds to replace Carlo Ancelotti with him.
He did set his job – or project as he prefered to call it – well. At the press conference where he was unveiled, he said, “Maybe I should be called ‘the Group One’,” as he tried to brush off the many comparisons with Mourinho. That was one task he didn’t achieve and which ultimately led to his sack. There were experienced and influential voices among the group that felt he wasn’t the one.
Frank Lampard became the first to come out and publicly confirm his relationship with the manager was not ideal. There were also reports that players like Ashley Cole and Michael Essien were not also on good terms with the young coach. Villas-Boas had put all three on the bench in their Champions League clash away to Napoli to emphasise his authority.
The dissatisfied players, a part of the unholy trinity along with fans and results, were forces too great for the Portuguese to surmount. The Chelsea fans sang: “You don’t know what you’re doing”- as they lost at Goodison Park a few weeks ago. It was the ultimate reaction to a poor run of results – three wins in twelve games.
For all I know, Villas-Boas is a fantastic manager. He couldn’t have achieved all he did with Porto by being ordinary or mediocre. But the Chelsea job came too early for him. He should have stayed a bit longer in Portugal or somewhere else and learn more. Perhaps he would have known how to deal with the player power in Chelsea.
Also as much as Abramovich tried to be patient, his hands were forced. The in-fighting was having its effect on the club and results on the pitch. And the 1-0 defeat away to West Brom was the final straw. But beyond that, it doesn’t help that he has kept changing coaches for fun. Continuity and stability is the reason why Manchester United and Arsenal remain the top clubs in England. For instance, there have been 12 Chelsea managers in the 16 years Arsene Wenger has been in charge of the Gunners.
The gossip columns are suggesting that Mourinho, who was spotted house hunting a few days back, may return to the post. Pep Guardiola and Rafael Benitez have also been mentioned.
In my opinion, the Chelsea job doesn’t need a messiah. It needs a manager who will clear the dead wood and rebuild the team. It doesn’t matter how long it will take. And it will only work, if a certain Russian with a bottomless bank account, can afford some patience.