LONDON, England, March 5 – Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich looks set to target top bosses like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as he searches for a permanent successor to Andre Villas-Boas, but some of his former managers have warned the Russian’s hands-on approach makes it an impossible job.
Abramovich is searching for his eighth manager in five years after sacking Villas-Boas just 257 days into his turbulent reign at Stamford Bridge.
Former Chelsea midfielder Roberto Di Matteo will take charge until the end of the season, but Barcelona chief Guardiola and Real Madrid boss Mourinho are believed to the leading names on Abramovich’s wanted list.
Abramovich is certain to try to tempt one of those managerial giants with the promise of a hefty salary and substantial transfer warchest.
However, there is a growing belief that the tycoon’s dictatorial regime, which has seen six managers axed, makes it impossible to thrive at Chelsea for long.
Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers’ Association, believes the situation “is a serious embarrassment to the owner, the club, the fans and the league”.
But Abramovich clearly feels his vast investment in the west London club gives him carte blanche to call the shots.
He piled pressure on Villas-Boas by turning up at training sessions and asking the managers’ tactics, as well as holding an inquest with the players and manager after a 2-0 defeat at Everton.
Even Mourinho, who brought Chelsea unprecedented success, lasted only three years before one disagreement too many with Abramovich, so it is hardly surprising to hear Luiz Felipe Scolari speak in less than glowing terms about the experience of working for the Blues in the 2008-09 season.
Like Villas-Boas, Scolari was sacked by Abramovich after less than a season in charge after losing his battle with some of the more dominant personalities in the dressing room.
Scolari, now in charge of Brazilian outfit Palmeiras, said: “Chelsea’s culture is very different, but this move is strange – although it’s not so strange to me because of what I went through there.
“Some things are known, like the relations with the owner, who has the relationship with some players before the coach.
“Villas-Boas was a champion and he will continue to be. He needed to replace at least seven or eight players, even since I was there, but he failed.
“It will be hell for whoever succeeds him.”
Avram Grant, who succeeded Mourinho in 2007, lasted an equally short period of time after it became clear he didn’t have command of the club’s superstars.
The Israeli agrees with Scolari that dealing with Chelsea’s influential power-brokers can be a major distraction.
“At a club like Chelsea you need to deal not only with football but other issues,” Grant said.
“I think in this case he (Villas-Boas) was lacking a little bit of experience.”
Villas-Boas’s commitment to the job can’t be faulted, with reports that he slept in a Japanese style pod at the training ground after Saturday’s loss to West Brom in a bid to allow him the maximum time to work on remedies for the crisis.
But he didn’t help himself in his dealings with ageing stars like Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba who needed to have their egos massaged before being eased out of the club.
His aloof management style also infuriated players, who reportedly regularly arrived just seconds before the deadline for training sessions in a bid to wind-up the disciplinarian.
In the end, Abramovich’s belief that the inexperienced Villas-Boas was the right man for the job of rebuilding the squad has proved an expensive mistake.
It was only last June that Abramovich stumped up £13.3 million in compensation to buy out Villas-Boas’ contract with Porto and the 34-year-old will continue to be paid his £90,000-a-week wages for the remainder of his three-year deal, unless he finds a new job in that time.
If Abramovich does manage to persuade a heavy-hitter like Guardiola or Mourinho to take charge many believe he would be wise to take a more hands-off approach as the new man tries to fulfil his demand for success with style.