LONDON: Roman Abramovich has money. Not as much money, perhaps, as the Sheikhs who own Manchester City but more than enough money to allow him to target the best coaches in the world to take over his rudderless Chelsea team.
This should be, as Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp, has described it, a “dream job.” Redknapp explained: “It’s a club with which you can win a championship because the owner has spared no expense. He has built the most incredible training ground and they buy top-level players.
“It’s a dream job for someone to go there and make a success of it, whoever they take. So many people would love that job and the chance to work at a great club with the backing that the manager gets there.”
The job description is easy to write. It is the one for which Andre Villas-Boas was hired last summer, at a cost of $9m, on the strength of his ‘one-season wonder’ at Porto.
Chelsea’s manager must keep his team high in contention for the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup . . . while playing entertaining, attractive football . . . and also overhaul and rejuvenate a squad which has been relying for too long on ageing players.
Achieving that triple target will also take care of clear concerns that veterans such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba command the dressingroom through the respect earned by experience and achievement.
Abramovich no longer indulges the likes of Terry and Lampard or talks football with them; that stopped when he brought in Italian Carlo Ancelotti. But the more remote Abramovich has become, the more Chelsea have resembled a ship adrift. It will take a strong man to bring the club back on course.
And such a man will be expensive.
Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola is the most successful manager around, having won 13 of his 16 possible trophies thus far with Barcelona and having done so with style and panache and on a mixture of home-grown talent and big-money purchases. Also, he has yet to confirm that he wants to extend his rolling one-year contract.
Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Real Madrid remains open to question even though they are storming away at the top of La Liga. He was the most successful manager of the Abramovich era at Chelsea and has never made any secret of his ambition to return one day to the Premier League; he has even been in London recently, looking at houses.
Rafa Benitez has not worked since being sacked as world club champion by Internazionale at Christmas 2010. The former Liverpool boss is also eager to work again in the Premier League and is well-versed in the task of rebuilding fallen giants from his experience at Anfield.
Germany’s Joachin Low is an outside possibility for Abramovich to pursue. His work since succeeding Jurgen Klinsmann has been recognised far and wide. But Chelsea need quick solutions which probably means a man with a proven current track record in the club world.
Given that Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson is out of reach, the best of the Premier crop is Redknapp who took over Tottenham three years ago at the bottom of the table and took them to the Champions League places with the sort of football Abramovich wants to see at Chelsea.
Redknapp, however, is already favourite for the England job and, at 64, may not want the turmoil which starting afresh at Chelsea would mean.
Finally, Brendan Rogers at widely-admired Premier newcomers Swindon is the best of the ‘young rest.’
But then, so was Villas-Boas.
THE ROMAN ARMY
Claudio Ranieri (2000-04): Was manager when Abramovich took over the club and was thus only ever living on borrowed time. His nickname ‘Tinkerman’ described his regular changes of mind on team selection and tactics. He always acknowledged that his sacking was inevitable sooner or later.
Jose Mourinho (2004–2007 – two Premier Leagues, two League Cups, one FA Cup, one Community Shield): Most successful manager of the Roman Empire, laid down the foundations and attitudes of the current squad. Mourinho ultimately fell out with the owner over transfer market power and insistence on results rather than entertainment.
Avram Grant (2007-2008): Most derided of modern Chelsea managers, partly because he had brought into the club as technical director over the head of fans’ favourite Mourinho. Yet he took Chelsea within one penalty kick of winning the Champions League in 2008.
Luiz Felipe Scolari (2008-February 2009): The pursuit of entertaining football should always lead to Brazil so Scolari was a logical choice. Unfortunately he had not worked at club level in Europe or England before and the 24/7 competitive pressures wore him down.
Guus Hiddink (2009, Feb to May – FA Cup): Came in as caretaker, put Chelsea back on their feet, won the FA Cup and left on his own terms as a hero. Perfect but only ever short-term.
Carlo Ancelotti (2009-11 – Premier League, FA Cup): Brought in from Milan with plenty of experience at dealing with demanding owners and big-ego players. Won the Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season but was denied the necessary investment in the new players he wanted and was a scapegoat for failings which were not his fault.
Andre Villas-Boas (2011-March 2012): His ‘instant achevement’ at Porto raised hopes that he would prove to be a ‘new Mourinho.’ Perhaps in another 10 years. Simply, the Chelsea job was too big for him at this stage of his career.