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Saturday, March 10, 2012
Chelsea's revolving door won't stop
LONDON — In any other business Roman Abramovich would be fired.
I am sure that if one of Abramovich's employees had made a series of calamitous decisions that cost the company £80 million he would be shown the door.
Abramovich, of course, is effectively wasting his own money as yet another manager, this time Andre Villas-Boas, walks away with a massive payoff.
As the search for Chelsea's next ex-manager gets under way, the trigger-happy owner is not only untouchable but those who work for the club risk being dismissed for disagreeing with Roman's rules. Billionaires live in a world populated by nodding dogs.
Villas-Boas became the sixth of seven managers in the Russian's nine-year tenure to be sacked; only Guus Hiddink, who was caretaker-manager for 22 games in 2009, escaped Abramovich's axe.
It is not so much Chelsea FC as Compensation FC with AVB due to receive around £11 million after nine months at Stamford Bridge, where nothing succeeds like failure.
Abramovich/Chelsea also paid FC Porto £13 million to bring the Portuguese to South-west London, which worked out at £2.6 million a month.
The usual suspects were trotted out as potential successors, Pep Guardiola . . . Jose Mourinho . . . why on earth would any leading manager want to work for a club that is becoming totally discredited, owned by a man who fired Carlo Ancelotti after winning the double and finishing second?
In Abramovich's mind that is failure.
The Chelsea owner is a man who allows a gang of four players to have unacceptable influence on a manager's future, attends training sessions and asks his manager to justify team selections. This is unlikely to be an environment that would appeal to Guardiola, who watched his super team demolish Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 on Wednesday.
At Barcelona, Guardiola has no such interference and he has overseen the most successful team in world football over the last three years, winning 13 of the 16 competitions they have contested.
Why would he even consider leaving a team that is as near perfect as can be, swapping Messi for Torres, Iniesta for Meireles or Xavi for Malouda?
Most crucially, president Sandro Rosell for Abramovich.
Chelsea fans would love Mourinho to return, yet the first time around the club was not big enough for the Special One and the Sacking One.
In the Stamford Bridge power games there is only one winner.
When Mourinho was in charge, between 2004 and 2007, Abramovich lumbered him with the expensive and ineffective Andriy Shevchenko, there were rows over the back-room staff and arguments about club policy.
Does anyone think Abramovich would change?
It will always be his way or the highway.
It must also be remembered that when Mourinho took over from Claudio Ranieri, Petr Cech, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were at their peak. Seven years later, the most influential Chelsea players had lost a yard of pace so the side AVB inherited was not as strong as the one Mourinho was handed.
At the start of the Mourinho era Chelsea was spending money like nobody else, but Manchester City have overtaken them.
Abramovich was initially Chelsea's savior, but he has turned the manager's job into mission impossible. Having sacked AVB, who won the Europa League with Porto last May, Chelsea now has Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton in charge, a management team not considered good enough by West Bromwich a year ago.
Rafa Benitez, fired by Liverpool and Inter Milan over the past two years, threw his hat in the ring, but the Chelsea fans have made it clear they do not want him, not that Abramovich considers the feelings of others when making decisions.
Chelsea should forget the big-name continental manager and go for David Moyes, who has worked miracles at Everton on a shoestring budget. The Scottish One would bring a different approach and atmosphere to Stamford Bridge, he would be popular with the supporters and maybe, just maybe, he would be given the time to rebuild an ageing Chelsea side.
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ARSENE WENGER seems to have learned his lesson. The Arsenal manager left his transfer dealings until the 11th hour last August and ended up with Per Mertesacker, who is not mobile enough for the Premier League, Mikel Arteta, nowhere near the class of Samir Nasri or Cesc Fabregas, and Yossi Benayoun on loan from Chelsea.
This time Wenger has started his summer shopping early by agreeing a £10.9 million deal for Cologne and Germany striker Lukas Podolski. The 26-year-old has only a year left on his Cologne contract, but to secure a proven goal-scorer like Podolski for such a price is excellent business.
Podolski has been directly involved in 65 percent — 16 goals, four assists — of Cologne's 31 Bundesliga goals this season, while he has scored 43 goals in 95 internationals.
Arsenal's best signing of the summer would, of course, be to convince Robin van Persie to extend his contract that expires in 2013. The Gunners' captain will be impressed by the capture of Podolski, but inevitably the assumption is that after seven trophy-less years the one-man goal machine will want to move on to a club with a better chance of winning honors.
There can be a fine dividing line between what may be perceived as lacking ambition and loyalty, but van Persie has a deep love for Arsenal and if Wenger signs two more top-of-the-range players the Gunners will have a side ready to challenge Manchester's finest.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.