Kevin De Bruyne’s January transfer from Belgian side Genk to Chelsea should be raising alarm bells for Chelsea fans. There is no doubt that the twenty-year-old midfielder is talented, but Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas’ admission that the transfer was nothing to do with him is indicative of the relationship between the board and manager. Villas-Boas said:
“You have to speak to the people from the club about that [the De Bruyne transfer]. It’s not within my immediate projects. He’s a player the club has scouted for some time. I’m a manager who respects club policy. A club has to look to the future, whether it’s with this manager or another.”
Every club needs a long-term strategy, a set of policies to help them provide stability in the long run, but surely Villas-Boas already has too many signings that aren’t his? By appointing the former Porto man Chelsea were supposedly making a statement. Surely the idea was that Roman Abramovich had seen too many managers come and go during his time in west London, Villas-Boas was supposed to be the answer. A young manager for a long-term project. A manager who would be allowed to build a team that could compete consistently without having to spend hundreds of millions of pounds every year.
Well if that was the idea, then why is that manager not allowed to buy the players that he wants? It is understandable that De Bruyne was bought because he was young and talented and is a long term investment, but by completely ignoring the manager and signing a player that he has no interest in suggests a number of problems: firstly that the board do not expect Villas-Boas to be in the job for very long; secondly that they don’t fully trust his judgement in players despite the fact that he used to be a scout.
Have Abramovich and the board not already learned from Shevchenko, Torres and others that you have to let a manager choose his own players. It is not the role of the owner to identify players that the team needs, it is the role of the owner to identify a manager who he thinks is capable, responsible and up to the task.
Imagine the situation as similar to UK politics. We have representative democracy, as in: we elect an MP to act on our behalf. We don’t elect an MP and then make all the decisions that they are supposed to make.
Many people, myself included, felt as though the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas had signalled that Abramovich had learnt from his mistakes, that he was going to allow Chelsea to evolve naturally over time. I was wrong. It is clear that nothing has changed. Whilst for some people the De Bruyne transfer might mean little other than another talented player in the squad for next season, for me it indicates than Villas-Boas might not be there to manage him.