Poisoned chalice for AVB successor

Posted on March 7, 2012

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What do Glenn Hoddle, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Rafa Benitez all have in common, aside from currently being out of work? You guessed it, they all want to succeed the sacked Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea.

They in fact have another thing in common: not one of them has a hope in hell of becoming Roman Abramovich’s latest manager at Stamford Bridge. Hoddle has essentially put himself out to pasture by taking so long out of the game. Eriksson has gained a reputation as a workhorse who will go wherever the money is. Benitez, who apparently was initially considered as a short-term replacement and has expressed a very public interest in the role, is hated by Chelsea’s fans and would not be a popular choice.

It is hard not to feel sorry for AVB. Working under an owner like Abramovich and having to talk to John Terry every day would test the patience of a saint. Promised time to see through his three-year “project” of replacing Chelsea’s ageing stars with new blood, he has been removed earlier than anyone really wanted due to a combination of a hostile dressing room and poor results. One always had the feeling that this would be a season of transition for Chelsea, but the club’s hierarchy have clearly decided that even during a transitional phase Champions League qualification is still a must.

Robert Di Matteo is another that on the face of it stands little chance of getting the role full-time, though his chances would certainly be boosted if he can rescue Chelsea’s season. Fourth place, winning the FA Cup and at least avoiding further embarassment in the Champions League would give the former Chelsea midfielder a fighting chance of landing the role. However, given that he is surely only in temporary charge as a result of the lack of availability of Guus Hiddink, even some semblance of success this season would be unlikely to win him the job full-time given the high-profile bosses that Abramovich usually goes for. Yet do those big names really want to go to Chelsea?

The rush amongst managers to rule themselves out of the running for the job has been intense. Brendan Rodgers said it would be a career-breaker and Harry Redknapp said he could never show his face in north London again if he were to swap the Lane for the Bridge (somewhat bizarrely coming from a man who once switched Portsmouth for local rivals Southampton). Pep Guardiola, with the likelihood of him leaving Barcelona in the summer increasing, would be an ideal candidate if he decides that he doesn’t fancy a sabbatical afterall. Yet why would somebody of his reputation risk having it ruined at the hands of a man who has already discarded such footballing luminaries as Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho.

Yes, I made it to this point without mentioning the “Special One”. He is certainly the fans’ choice, as well as that of most of the media. He certainly looks as though he will be available in the summer, and there are few other jobs likely to be available then that would interest him. Yet there are obstacles. Abramovich would have to swallow his pride and effectively admit he made a huge error in letting Mourinho leave in the first place. The Real Madrid manager would also require astronomical wages and a sizeable war chest if he were to return. My advice to Mourinho would be to not go back. Abramovich is a loose cannon, and any relationship could turn sour again. It is undeniable, however, that with Mourinho’s likely availability and a vacancy to fill, the oligarch would be foolish not to at least sound out his former charge.

Should the Mourinho dream not work out, with most other managers having already ruled themselves out, Abramovich would be left with two viable options. Germany boss Joachim Loew may well be looking for a new challenge after the European Championships in the summer, and he has been careful not to fully rule himself out. He has transformed an ageing but efficient German team into a young, vibrant, attacking one that stands a real chance of winning this summer’s tournament. This is exactly the role that the new Chelsea boss must fulfil, moving on the ageing nucleus of Mourinho’s successful side and bringing in fresh faces and a fresh mentality.

The second option is more of a wildcard, but he has won support in certain sections of the press. David Moyes has worked wonders on a tiny budget at Everton, winning Premier League Manager of the Year three times in the last ten seasons. It is unlikely he will be able to take the club any further given his resources. A strong character who would not put up with the dressing room sniping of Lampard, Terry and company, he also has a track record for bringing young players into his sides. Often touted as a future Manchester United manager once Sir Alex Ferguson steps aside (whenever that may be), Chelsea could do worse than put the future of their club into a safe pair of hands in Moyes.

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Posted in: Sport