Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Dares Cross the Bridge?

An unhappy ending
With Andre Villas-Boas becoming the seventh manager to lose his job since the Roman Abramovich regime commenced in 2003, speculation surrounds who is being lined up to cross the bridge that has seen so many stumble and fall. The following candidates top the Chelsea wish list:

JOSE MOURINHO – 49, Real Madrid

The main target
‘The Special One’ is the players and fans favourite to return to Stamford Bridge, where he previously won six trophies, including two Premier League titles, crowning him Chelsea’s most successful manager ever.

Mourinho has made no secrets of his desire to return to the Premier League and amidst rumours of increasingly strained relations with Real Madrid’s big name stars, he was spotted house-hunting in London last week.

However, with Arsene Wenger’s job in the balance at Arsenal and the possibility of Harry Redknapp trading Tottenham for England, the media frenzy has flown into overdrive.

Mourinho has also been linked with both Manchester clubs, although with Man City’s current form and Sir Alex Ferguson’s good health, these posts are showing little sign of availability.

With a history of achieving his goals and moving swiftly on, Mourinho has suggested his next visit to England will be in a long haul capacity, citing Ferguson’s reign as inspiration.

The problems at Chelsea cannot be immediately resolved and the Chelsea faithful will be hoping this is the perfect project for him to take on with his experience and deep-rooted love for the club.

Although there would be the small task of resolving ‘philosophical differences’ with Abramovich...

PEP GUARDIOLA – 41, Barcelona

Highly regarded
Despite boasting the capture of every possible trophy as both player and manager at Barcelona, Guardiola has always kept his options open, only ever signing one-year contract extensions.

He openly admits a fondness of Premier League football, expressing a desire to tackle alternative cultures and if Barcelona win their third Champions League title in four seasons this year, it might be a perfect way to move on.

However, with Real Madrid looking favourites to win La Liga, this would be considered a low point and it remains hard to see him parting company with what is arguably one of the greatest football outfits of all-time.

Does he really want to confront the headache of a floundering Chelsea team in desperate need of refurbishment - a role offering an average shelf life of under 12 months?

RAFAEL BENITEZ – 51, Unattached

Controversial choice
Most short-term memories of Benitez are not particularly impressive, with an unsuccessful short-lived spell at Inter Milan and a troubled time prior to his departure at Liverpool.

Those whose football knowledge extends further than this will vouch for Benitez and his tactical shrewdness which saw a prosperous tenure at Valenica before guiding Liverpool to Champions League success in 2005 and running Manchester United close for the Premier League title in 2008/09.

Benitez has the experience of winning the Champions League, the trophy that Abramovich so desperately wants to capture and also has the ability to get the best out of fellow Spaniard Fernando Torres who has so-far flopped at Chelsea since his £50M transfer.

The biggest issue with this appointment would be how the Chelsea fans would greet a man who they associate with relative failure at Liverpool. Benitez was also a hate figure for Chelsea fans during his time at Liverpool following controversial Champions League semi-finals in 2005 and 2007.

This will not concern Abramovich, though he may do well to remember the sour relationships Benitez formed with board members at Valencia and Liverpool, concerning his campaign for increased control of transfers.

FABIO CAPELLO – 65, Unattached

Recently standing down from his post as England manager, Capello has reappeared on the market and may offer Abramovich just what he needs.

Capello is hard-headed and refuses to be flustered by big egos and the diva-like behaviour that seems to accompany modern football’s superstars.

A Champions League victory with AC Milan over Barcelona in 1994 and domestic success in Spain with Real Madrid combine with his role as England manager to complete an extremely well-rounded CV.

Capello in an unemotional figure who always put the team’s fortunes ahead of personal battles and this could be the refreshing approach that Chelsea are in need of.

ROBERTO DI MATTEO – 41, Chelsea (Caretaker)

A passionate figure
Still popular at Stamford Bridge, Di Matteo is most notably remembered for his two FA Cup-winning goals for the Blues in 1997 and 2000.

Di Matteo is currently installed in a caretaker position and has recruited fellow ex-Chelsea midfielder Eddie Newton to form a management duo that aims to use knowledge and passion for the club, which seems to have lost all sense of identity, to turnaround their old employer’s fortunes.

Di Matteo had a successful role at Milton Keynes Dons and started brightly at West Bromwich Albion before a rapid decline in form saw him relieved of his duties less than a year into his contract.

Di Matteo is unlikely to carry this role any further than the end of the season, although if he were to guide Chelsea to the much coveted fourth position or even mastermind a victorious cup campaign, Abramovich may be persuaded that someone with long-standing ties to the club is the answer to the new revolution.

A self-inflicted headache
Whether any of these candidates are available or suited for the role is debatable but one certainty remains. Whoever Roman Abramovich chooses, we can safely assume the next appointment will be made on the basis of experience and not potential.

Written by Dom Wallace


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