AVB another victim of one man’s obsession at Chelsea
Andre Villas-Boas has been a dead man walking for a long time. Through his tired body language, his comments in the press and of course, his team’s results, it was painfully obvious that Roman Abramovich was going to boot the beleaguered Portuguese out the door he first entered just nine months ago.
There are so many questions surrounding Villas-Boas, the players and the future of the team. Chelsea, at present, is a corrupt football club. The way the club is being run is completely wrong. Based on results, yes, AVB had to go and this is article is not about defending him, it is about looking into the circumstances surrounding Chelsea as a whole.
But how much of the blame for Chelsea’s plight really lies at his feet? What can he do if so called “senior figures” like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole refuse to accept him? Indeed, what can he do if he doesn’t deliver straight from the outset?
For so long, Abramovich has longed for the Champions League trophy and still it eludes him. Hiring and firing at will, trying anything to bring the biggest prize in club football to Stamford Bridge, it has become an obsession for the Russian. With Chelsea on the brink of European elimination again, this time at the hands of Napoli, Villas-Boas’ fate was effectively sealed in Italy two weeks ago. It has become abundantly clear that failure to win either the Premier League or the Champions League, results in Abramovich bringing his axe down on whoever’s head happens to be resting on the neck of the man in the Chelsea hotseat.
During AVB’s turbulent reign, there was very little stability surrounding any aspect of the club. Dressing room division appeared faster than you can say “Harry for England“, with the Portuguese speaking contingent lead rather vocally by David Luiz up against the stalwarts of Frank Lampard, John Terry et al. It was frankly laughable to see Villas-Boas calling Lampard a “legend” mere days after the midfielder had admitted to having had ”issues” with the boss. With the dressing room lost, the support of the fans swiftly wilted and the consequent flurry of bad results made Abramovich’s decision inevitable.
Perhaps it is now time to examine Abramovich a little more closely. Media appearances simply do not occur, instead the only exposure of the Russian are mirky camera shots of him, usually expressionlessly, overseeing the occasional game at the Bridge.
His route to becoming a billionaire is largely shrouded in mystery. The smuggling of contraband in and out of Moscow is what laid the foundations for future success. If you read up on Abramovich, words such as “bribe”, “fraud” and “theft” will frequently appear before your eyes. It is clear then, that in business, this man will do almost anything to get what he wants and to be fair, his $13.4bn worth suggests things have worked for him. However, this strategy cannot be applied in the hope of achieving prolonged success in football. Continuity, as Chelsea’s biggest domestic rivals Manchester United and Arsenal have demonstrated, is the key.
Jose Mourinho, the “Special One”, left the club shortly after the beginning of the 07/08 season. Avram Grant was never going to last, even if John Terry’s agonising Champions League penalty miss in that season’s final had gone in. Luiz Felipe Scolari bit the dust less than a year later, temporarily replaced by Guus Hiddink, who so nearly led Chelsea to a second successive final meeting with Manchester United, only to be denied by Andres Iniesta’s last gasp strike in the semis. Carlo Ancelotti took over and won the title in 09/10, but ultimately his failure to deliver the Champions League, like his predecessors, was also his undoing. AVB completes the list.
We are talking here, for the most part, about managers of the highest pedigree, all victims of one man’s obsession. It begs the question, is Abramovich really in control of his actions?
Then there is the Fernando Torres problem. A solar system away from the form he showed at Liverpool, Chelsea’s £50m flop arrived on the back of Abramovich’s orders, not Ancelotti’s. He was meant to spearhead Chelsea to Champions League glory, to finally deliver Abramovich the silverware he so craves. You don’t need me to tell you that things haven’t quite gone to plan. So much so that it is beginning to look as if the once mesmeric Spaniard has plummeted into irreversible decline. This is a prime example of Abramovich’s recklessness coming back to bite him.
Where Chelsea go from here, it is impossible to determine. Roberto Di Matteo has been left to steer the punctured vessel for the rest of the season. Realistically, 4th place is also Chelsea fans can hope for, and that is far from guaranteed. It seems with each dismissal, the Champions League is slipping ever further from Abramovich’s grasp. Supporters can expect a summer overhaul of drastic proportions, that is for sure.
They may clamour for the return of Mourinho, supposedly house hunting in London, and who knows what might happen? That story could run and run. Rafa Benitez? That would be very interesting. Pep Guardiola cannot be ruled out either. But whoever takes up the reins will be well aware that they are stepping into a job where nothing but instant success is acceptable. And who would be willing to assume such a poisoned chalice?