Another Abramovich failure in his bid to find a new Mourinho

As successful as Andre Villas-Boas was at Porto his appointment at Chelsea always looked like a ticking time bomb instead of a concrete pillar for success and stability at Stamford Bridge,  so what was Roman Abramovich’s master plan? 

Villas-Boas’s managerial prowess can’t really be questioned; he won the treble at FC Porto in 2011 claiming the league title, Portuguese Cup and the Europa League, matching the achievements of the ‘special’ Jose Mourinho. 

However, the difference is that Mourinho was allowed more time to hone his skills in Portugal, bringing home another League title and most importantly, the coveted Champions League much to the surprise of the rest of Europe. 

We all know what happened next when the now Real Madrid manager joined Chelsea, it doesn’t need to be narrated, and nor does the constant nostalgia that has engulfed the club since his swift exit back in September 2007. There is a real sense of unfinished business surrounding Mourinho and Chelsea FC. 

It’s that unfinished aura that party led Villas-Boas to the Bridge. It doesn’t take a genius to see the correlation between the two Portuguese managers in terms of their pre-Chelsea careers and Abramovich saw the opportunity to try and repeat the glory days of Mourinho’s management. 

It wasn’t a cheap option though, it cost the Russian oligarch £28 million to dismiss Carlo Ancelotti and hire Villas-Boas, having to pay Porto £13.3 million to release the manager from his contract and free him to join the Blues. 

The decision to do away with Ancelotti paved the way for Villas-Boas to encounter problems as the Chelsea owner had parted company with a manager who had brought the Premier League and FA Cup to Stamford Bridge, a manager who had the full support of the players and a manager who had the experience to reassemble an ageing Chelsea squad. 

The master plan was to appoint a charismatic figure, someone who could captivate and ooze presence on the touchline, not squat like Paula Radcliffe during a marathon and stutter and mumble his way through press conferences. There were no “I am special” quotes from the 34-year-old, just excuses and meaningless chat. 

Villas-Boas lacked the self-confidence and commanding persona that Mourinho boasted, and this caused his age to play a greater catalyst in his dismissal than would ordinarily have been if Abramovich had appointed the man he wished him to be.

The likes of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole didn’t see a rising starlet in management before them, they saw a man inferior in terms of both age and importance, lacking the ego to contend with the biggest characters in the ageing Chelsea squad which needed to be addressed. 

 No blame can be placed with Villas-Boas, he was and still is a fine coach, but the task of competing whilst rebuilding was too much for a man with just one successful campaign under his belt, and after the first game of the season – a 0-0 draw with Stoke City – expectations were no longer higher than Ancelotti’s eyebrow, but lower than Fernando Torres’s goals tally since joining the club from Liverpool. 

Public backing was never present, and Abramovich only added to the uncertainty surrounding his tenure with frequent visits to the training ground and impromptu meetings to discuss tactics, further raising doubt amongst the players that their manager had the nous that the owner demanded. 

The beginning of the end was well and truly confirmed when Chelsea lost 3-1 away to Napoli in the Champions League, and their 1-0 defeat to West Brom on Saturday was the final nail in the coffin, or final chapter depending on what cliché you like the best.

Abramovich had attempted to find a clone of Jose Mourinho but had instead installed a manager lacking the experience and personality to control and manipulate a squad full of egos and Chelsea stalwarts. Indeed, with a fully rebuilt squad Villas-Boas may well have succeeded, but in Ancelotti the Russian had his answer: experience, respect and successful. He got it wrong with the appointment of Villas-Boas, but he may get it right second time round if he goes for the special one and not just a talented wannabe. 

Alex O’Loughlin   @AlexOLoughlin18

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