For a man who owns a €800million yacht, you would have thought that this summer couldn’t come a week too soon for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
But for however luxurious a week’s stay amongst the Eclipse’s 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools and 70 crew members may be, there’s one issue in particular that no amount of Caribbean sunshine is likely to be able to soothe.
Because for the man who seemingly has it all, there was one commodity that Abramovich was unable to acquire with his endless amounts of wealth and his failure to seal the managerial services of Pep Guardiola has left him with a super-yacht sized problem to deal with at Stamford Bridge. As the clock ticks down on interim manager Rafa Benitez’s short-term contract, the list of viable candidates to appoint on a permanent basis is beginning to look very short indeed.
As the dust settles on Guardiola’s decision to head to Bayern Munich this summer and the club’s Premier League form continues to look patchy under the stopgap Benitez, the hunt for a new boss in West London appears to be the subject nobody’s particularly keen to talk about. Given the fact there’s just over five months left till the ex-Liverpool boss is set to leave the club, now wouldn’t be a particularly bad time to dissect the potential candidates.
Yet while it would be foolhardy to preempt that the Chelsea board hasn’t already put the wheels in motion towards drawing up a managerial shortlist, you can’t imagine they’re working from a particularly large pool of potential candidates.
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If all Chelsea’s eggs were put in the Pep Guardiola basket, than they’re now either smashed to oblivion or somewhere in transit on their way to a quaint little part of Bavaria. The decision to part with Roberto Di Matteo was an absolute howler of a PR decision and it’s not served them particularly well on the pitch either, but the school of thought was that if Guaridola was to take over at the end of the term, then it might all seem worth it in the end.
They say the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, but even if Chelsea’s assumption that Guardiola would take the money and run was a staggeringly arrogant miscalculation, you would have thought someone would have given credence to something along the lines of Plan B.
In previous seasons when Abramovich has tired of his latest managerial recruit, the formula for a replacement has been beautifully simplistic.
From Mourinho to Scolari or Villas-Boas to Ancelotti, whenever the club have required a new face in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat, they’ve been in pole position to pluck the respective toasts of European football at the time of asking. Ten years on from first taking control of the club and it appears that party trick has finally run its course for Roman Abramovich.
Because this time round, no doubt fuelled by the fickle precedent he’s laid out for himself with the fate of the previous managerial incumbents, the toast of European football hasn’t wanted to come and hop on the Chelsea merry-go-round. And while Guardiola isn’t the be all and end all of football management, the club’s powers of persuasion have been massively detrimented.
This isn’t to say they can’t appoint an extremely talented manager, but the chances are they’re not going to be able to get a wholly proven commodity.
Jose Mourinho might be the people’s choice, but the working conditions seem to have got worse since he was first dumped by Abramovich, a feature that won’t exactly have been lost on the Special One.
Tito Vilanova is never leaving the club who have stood by him through his recent health issues, outgoing Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes is unlikely to prove a long-term option given his considerations to retire at the end of the term and Paris Saint-Germain’s Carlo Ancelotti has been there, done it and got the t-shirt.
Borussia Dortmund’s outstanding Jurgen Klopp remains one of Europe’s most in-demand managers, but would he really throw away autonomous control, the opportunity to duel with Guardiola next season and a reputation that’s seen him linked with both Real Madrid and the German National Team for a roll of the dice with Abramovich?
Even within our own league, the Chelsea owner isn’t likely to find much luck. Neither Ferguson or Wenger are going anywhere, Roberto Mancini isn’t going to find better terms away from Manchester City and Andre Villas-Boas was, well, sacked by Abramovich last year.
The shrinking pool of top-class talent that Abramovich has left to choose from this summer offers the Russian something of a watershed moment in his decade-long ownership of the football club. Money will always talk in football and if he puts a gargantuan offer on the table for Klopp, who knows whether the Dortmund manager will have his head turned or not.
Yet while the damage done to the desirability of the Stamford Bride hot seat might seem bad now following Guardiola’s snub, should Klopp hypothetically encounter the same problem so many others have had at Stamford Bridge, that damage may become irreparable.
In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether Roman Abramovich appoints Jurgen Klopp, David Moyes or even Sean O’Driscoll as the next Chelsea manager. All that matters is that the next incumbent, who ever it may be, is given time, autonomy and a working environment free from the suffocation of higher powers. A failure to do so will see damage inflicted upon the club that no money in the world may be able to repair.