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My new puppet coach should...
Tue, May 27, 2008
The Straits Times
LONDON - THERE is a consensus that the new Chelsea manager can never be found.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the new Chelsea manager, whom owner Roman Abramovich wants, does not exist.

The problem for the Russian billionaire, as he seeks his fourth manager in four years, is that the criteria he set are impossible for any one man to fulfil, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

He wants a strong, independent, ruthless winner like Jose Mourinho. But the manager must also be a yes-man like Avram Grant, as well as a shrewd judge of players like Claudio Ranieri, whom the Russian inherited before firing.

But, with his wealth estimated at £12 billion (S$32.3 billion), Abramovich can do whatever he wants, without fear or shame.

In 2003, he bought Chelsea with the aim of making them the best club in the world by 2014.

July will mark Abramovich's fifth anniversary. But little has changed.

The Blues are back where they were when he arrived - hugely ambitious, but lurching from one crisis to another. They are incapable of coherent management and proper business practice because of the whims of one man, claimed The Times.

Mourinho may have delivered two Premier League titles and three domestic Cups. But Chelsea remain far from being a mature football club - financially stable, with a series of long-term plans in place.

Grant may have come agonisingly close to Premier League and Champions League glory, but that was not enough to save his job.

The manner of his departure casts much light on the bizarre workings of the club, where only Abramovich and his trusted aide, Eugene Tenenbaum, know what is going on.

Even as late as Friday morning, less than 32 hours before Grant's dismissal was announced on the club's website, senior board members had not been told that he was going to be sacked.

The dismissal of the Israeli also shows Abramovich at his most ruthless, with the owner feeling no compunction about dumping a man he regards as a close friend.

What the owner is after is still unclear. But his actions suggest that, in line with many of today's young billionaires, he wants everything yesterday.

Chelsea's recent history indicates that the basic job description of their manager is to win the Premier League or Champions League every year, while playing the most entertaining football on the planet.

And all this is to be achieved while pandering to the considerable egos of the most expensively-assembled group of players in the world.

In addition, the successful candidate must tolerate, if not actively appreciate, advice from an owner who attended his first football match at Old Trafford just over five years ago. And the boss generally has plenty to say about matters relating to performance and personnel.

As former manager Glenn Hoddle noted: 'It's different from managing any other club.

'You can understand if someone is putting that amount of finances into a club, he wants a say. I think this is where football and business really are different.

'Whoever they go for will be high-profile and for me, whoever comes in, you know the wicket is going to be a sticky wicket if you want to make every single decision.'

So, who fits the bill?

The man Abramovich apparently wants is another so-called friend - Russia coach Guus Hiddink. Hiddink's agent said yesterday that the Dutchman would remain with the team until the end of the 2010 World Cup.

But, it would be prudent to remember that it is Abramovich who pays Hiddink's salary as Russia's coach.

Other names in the hat include Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, ex-Italy coach Marcello Lippi and sacked Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard.

Two home-grown candidates on the list are Blackburn's Mark Hughes and Sunderland's Roy Keane.

Yet, no matter how glamorous and powerful a manager may appear, at Chelsea, he is ultimately a eunuch - subservient to Abramovich's demands, whatever he might achieve.


FULL-TIME OWNER, PART-TIME MANAGER

'I was told that, at a dinner in Russia, Roman Abramovich said he wanted more involvement in the football side of the business. That is, and was, his true love.

'He said he had contributed 30 per cent towards the club regarding on-pitch activity.'
RICHARD BEVAN, League Managers' Association chief executive, who claimed Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had boasted publicly of running almost a third of his team's affairs


My new puppet coach should...

1 Have a proven track record at a significant level of management

2 Make the boys play the Beautiful Game: We want to be Barcelona in blue shirts

3 Be able to demonstrate good ability as an on-field technician

4 Instil discipline without being too heavy-handed, while maintaining a dignified presence

5 Develop a positive relationship with me

6 Speak a good standard of English
 

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