Abramovich and the seven dwarfs
Ever since the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich forked out a massive £ 140 million to buy the Chelsea Football Club, the club has been on the rise both on and off the field. While on the field, they won their first Premier League title in 2004-05 before replicating the success in 2005-06 and 2009-10, they also became a huge brand off the field. ‘The Blues’ became a household name across the globe as the number of fans for the club kept increasing.
But during Abramovich’s nine years rein his impatience with managers failing to deliver, threatens to overshadow his other accomplishments. Hungry for immediate success and the elusive Champions League trophy, he has fired some big names in football, at the drop of a hat.
Here we take a look at the seven men who have found themselves at the wrong end of the Russian.
1. Claudio Ranieri (2003-04)
The Italian was the incumbent coach when Abramovich took over. With money from the owner to back him, Ranieri went on a spending spree and began to build his squad. But he was not given another season with his newly built squad as they have finished second to an invincible Arsenal in Premier League and went out in the semi-final in the Champions League.
2. Jose Mourinho (2004 -07)
The self proclaimed ‘Special One’, having led Portuguese club Porto to an amazing treble in the previous year, came to Chelsea at a huge salary of £ 4.5 millions and it was under him that Chelsea reached new heights, winning back to back premier League titles in 2005-06 and 2006-07. But the straight talking Mourinho proved too much of a character for Abramovich to handle and the ego clashes became public. The bone of contention was a certain Andriy Shevchenko on whom the two men had contrasting views. Ultimately peeved at the lack of freedom, Mourinho resigned as Chelsea’s manager, having failed to deliver the Champions League glory.
3. Avram Grant (2007 – 08)
The Israeli was brought into the Chelsea fold by Abramovich in July 2007 as the Director of Football when Mourinho was still the manager. Grant subsequently took over two months later and despite not winning any silverware, Chelsea had the best Champions League campaign under him when he took the Blues within a John Terry spot kick to be crowned the European Champions. That, however, was not enough to please the Russian and the duo parted ways three days later.
4. Louis Phillip Scholari (2008-09)
Having already proved his mettle at the world stage, the Brazilians’ appointment was given a big ‘aye’ by the fans, who were still sulking over the departure of Mourinho. But the World Cup winning coach failed to live up to the hype and couldn’t replicate the success at the club level. Chelsea made a good start to the season but lost their way midway and the coach was roundly criticized for the slump. He lasted just seven months in the job before being sacked unceremoniously midway through the season.
5. Guus Hiddink (2009)
After the ouster of Scholari, Dutchman Guus Hiddink was appointed as Chelsea’s coach on a temporary basis for the rest of the season. Hiddink, who had successful stints with the South Korea and Australia national football side, was also the managing the Russian national football side at that time. He did his job of resurrecting the Chelsea side quite well, winning 11 out of the last 13 to take the team to third spot in the points table and secure a Champion League berth for the seventh consecutive season. In Champions League, he took the side to the semis, where Chelsea lost to eventual winners Barcelona on away goals. In his last game, he led Chelsea to a 2-1 victory over Everton at Wembley to win the fifth FA Cup for the club. Though he was pleaded by fans and players alike to stay back at the Bridge, he chose to stick with his job as Russia’s coach.
6. Carlo Ancelotti (2009-2011)
After a series of chopping and changing the squad, the Italian finally brought some stability to the Chelsea managers’ post. Ancelotti was an instant hit at the Stamford Bridge, leading Chelsea to their third EPL title in the 2009-10 season before beating Portsmouth to win the FA Cup, completing the first double for the London club. Even though the team crashed out of the Champions League, losing to Inter Milan in the round of 16, Ancelotti, who had two Champions league titles with AC Milan, was allowed to continue one more season at Chelsea. But the second season proved to be a disaster as Chelsea failed to win in any competition. His record £50 million signing of Fernando Torres from Liverpool proved to be a failure as the ‘El Nino’ looked miserable in the blue jersey. Ancellotti was eventually sacked hours after his last game which ended in a 0-1 defeat to Everton.
7. Andre Villas Boas (2011-2012)
Abramovich once again raised quite a few eyebrows when he paid a record £13.3 million to avail the services of the 34 year old Andre Villas Boas. The former understudy of Mourinho, though largely inexperienced, rode on the back of a superb season with Porto to be hailed as the next big thing for Chelsea. But the move didn’t click as Boas’ tactics failed big time and Chelsea slumped to new depths. His age also proved to be an hindrance as he was not able to command respect from the squad, especially from the senior players and reports of rifts within the team became a common theme. Chelsea being a massive 20 points behind the league leaders and on the verge of exiting from the Champions League, Boas’ contract with the club was terminated midway through the season.
Who’s Next ??
Given Abramovich’s obsession with the Champions League, it is highly unlikely that the current interim coach Roberto Di Matteo will be retained for the next season. If rumours are to be believed, Rafael Benitez, who led Liverpool to a Champions League victory in 2005 and Jose Mourinho, who has grown many folds in stature since leaving Chelsea, are the top contenders. The most successful manager in recent times, Pep Guardiola and former England coach Fabio Capello are also in the fray.
But with Chelsea’s managerial position becoming the most insecure job in football, will the big names be interested ?