Reports emanating from the Portuguese media suggest that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will fork out £13.2m to secure the services of Porto’s highly-coveted young manager Andre Villas-Boas. The 33-year-old, who guided the Dragons to a domestic and European treble in his first season as manager of the club, could follow the path taken by compatriot and predecessor Jose Mourinho.
Whilst Blues fans have enjoyed unprecedented levels of success since Abramovich took over the club in 2003, they have also become accustomed to instability and managerial uncertainty.
Abramovich’s ruthless approach to the managerial hotseat, partly fuelled by his desire to land the club’s elusive first European Cup, has seen seven managers part ways with the west London side since 2004. Carlo Ancelotti, the last man tasked with this pursuit, was mercilessly despatched just one season after leading the club to their first league and FA Cup double.
Whilst this flippant approach has been criticised, supporters of Abramovich’s methods will point to its effectiveness. The sacking of Claudio Ranieri facilitated the installation of Jose Mourinho, who led the club to six trophies in three glorious years. The decision to terminate Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Stamford Bridge stay was vindicated by the progress enjoyed under Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti.
If Villas-Boas does take over the vacant managerial post, the decision to dismiss Ancelotti and hire his replacement will have cost the club nearly £20m. For a club with aspirations of self-sufficiency and compliance with UEFA’s forthcoming financial fair play rules, this is a procedure that they simply cannot afford to undertake on an annual basis.
Club officials, such as former chief executive Peter Kenyon and his successor Ron Gourlay, have spoken of a desire to turn the free-spending club into one that is more prudent. Gourlay said last year: “The balance is being able to bring players through from the academy and offset some of the higher costs we have spent over the years.”
As a manager, the ability to provide youth with the chance to develop and grow in a first-team environment is nigh on impossible when the threat of the axe is almost permanently hanging above one’s head. Many bemoaned Ancelotti’s persistent failure to provide highly-rated midfielder Josh McEachran with a sustained run in the first-team last season, but the Italian spent a sizeable chunk of last season trying to coax his side out of a horrific mid-season slump, before playing catch-up with eventual Premier League winners Manchester United. Deploying a largely untested Academy player could have made Premier League recovery even more difficult.
Whilst recent departees Jacopo Sala, Gokhan Tore and Michael Mancienne may not have been enough to good enough to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, their exits do highlight undeniable failings with the club’s youth policy. The constant turnover of managerial personnel has meant that the club’s youngsters have not been given the chance to develop in the first-team; it is of course an oft-repeated assertion that no Academy-developed player has established himself at the club since captain John Terry.
The appointment of a young manager would seem to suggest that Abramovich is heeding these concerns, and is subsequently more willing to allow a dynasty to develop and flourish at the club. Villas-Boas’ arrival could herald a paradigm shift in mentality and finally allow the club to shrug off suggestions that it is one rooted in quick-fix success, and achievement based solely upon financial muscle.
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