The abrupt sacking of Roberto Di Matteo has sparked allegations that the Italian was forced to play Fernando Torres at the hands of the all-powerful Roman Abramovich, and it has been implied the decision to drop the failed forward for Chelsea’s now fateful Champions League defeat to Juventus is part of the reason the Blues legend is now unemployed, despite winning two major trophies in his short reign as Chelsea boss.
Tactical errors aside – the blues were certainly lacking in fire-power throughout the European clash – Abramovich’s teacher’s pet Fernando Torres has inadvertently got his manager the sack. Having said that, it could as easily been an advertent effort considering the Spaniard has scored just 19 goals in three years with the London club and has looked lazy and uninterested to put it kindly in a Chelsea shirt this season.
During the recent 2-1 defeat to West Brom, a match which was very much the prelude to the Champions League drubbing at the hands of the Italian Champions, Torres played for an hour before being hauled off, and in that time failed to make a single effort on goal. Not great for a striker, especially a striker who cost £50million and especially for a striker who cost £50million and is surrounded by some of the Premier League’s most creative talent in Oscar and Hazard.
Abramovich has now swapped the disobedient Di Matteo with Rafa Benitez, a man who will almost most certainly play Fernando Torres, and could even make the sulky star put some effort into his performances every now and again. But then again, Benitez is a man who sold Xabi Alonso, tried replacing him with Gareth Barry, only to settle for Alberto Aquilani and then went on to have a dismal spell at Inter Milan so it is understandable why many Blues fans are against the decision – not that Abramovich is concerned with that.
Clubs used to be ruled by the fans, not by the owners. But that is the way the game has changed, with money being the catalyst for the shift in power. The Director of Football is a position that has been spawned from the desires of the boardroom- a man to bring in the players, often with little consent or discussion with the manager. Alan Curbishley stepped down as West Ham boss following the sale of Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney without his consent (although I’m not sure if they’re worth worrying about too much to be honest Curbs) by former Hammers Technical Director Gianluca Nani and hasn’t taken a job since probably due to the fact no board will guarantee him autonomy over his transfers.
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Newcastle is another story of control being relinquished from the fans and manager and into the hands of the board. Then again, I wouldn’t leave key decisions up to Alan Pardew – is he anything more than a rich man’s Steve Kean? Constantly smiling, undoubtedly loyal to his players and blissfully unaware of why he wins games and equally why he loses games. The dubious story of how Pardew came to receive the Newcastle post is a glowing example of Mike Ashley’s power at the club. With Chris Haughton doing a steady, but unspectacular job, the rotund millionaire bumped into the recently sacked Southampton manager in a casino and after a few drinks and some outlandish betting, a deal was agreed that Pardew would be offered a job as Magpies boss.
As of yet the decision has paid off following Newcastle breaking into the Europa league last season, however results in the Premier League are beginning to run dry this campaign. It is not Ashley’s only decision that has shocked and appalled the Magpie faithful. St James’s Park has been renamed with the catchy title “The Sports-Direct Arena” after Ashley’s classy chav-chique sportswear chain, and the club have recently announced a new sponsorship deal with Wonga.Com, a company who prey on creating debt by lending you money, only to employ bailiffs to come to your house and take away your TV, stopping you from watching Football on a Saturday, when you can’t afford to pay them back.
Championship side and regular play-off flops Cardiff City were taken over by new Malaysian owners in 2010, and this season have changed their home kit from their traditional blue shirt and white shorts which has been in worn by the team for over 100 years to red and black. Similarly, the club’s badge has been transformed into an emblem consisting of a red dragon, despite the welsh side’s long-standing nickname being “the bluebirds”, in an effort appeal more to the Asian market where the colour red has spiritual connotations. In return however, the club received financial investment to fund expansion of the Cardiff City stadium as well as the club’s summer transfers, which in many ways sums up the trend.
Football is a bizarre business. Clubs have to compete on two fronts constantly. Not only are managers and players expected to get results in the league, but furthermore, the board expects to make some money, or at least expects the club to make cut-throat business decisions that will often be to the detriment of the fans as their team’s morality comes into question. The problem is, if the money new owners bring produces results, for example the ten trophies won by Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, there is little grounds for fans to complain. Even when fans do complain, such as the establishment of FC United as a rejection of the Glazers’ take-over of Manchester United, which was largely funded by debt, plenty more fans – mostly from London in Man United’s case – are ready to fill the gaps in the stadium. Football is an inelastic product – no matter what the cost, loyal supporters will never turn their backs on their club, and as long as owners control the purse, fans wishes will always come second to those of the boardroom billionaires.