Roman Abramovich’s constant search for a Chelsea manager capable of inspiring instant success continues following the dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti.
But the Russian billionaire’s obvious desire to see the club he bought in 2003 win the Champions League and dominate England domestically seems to have undermined the chances of that happening.
Ancelotti paid the price for the failure of previous regimes to overhaul a squad largely assembled by Jose Mourinho, with his predecessors unable to stamp their identity on the club in the short time given to them.
That sort of pressure generally forces coaches to rely upon short-term fixes and experienced players, a practice that left Chelsea’s aging squad exposed by injuries and loss of form this season.
Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti never managed to find backup or replacements for the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry as their injuries became more frequent with age.
But Grant, Scolari and Hiddink only averaged six months in charge as Abramovich’s constant search for a manager capable of inspiring instant success restricted opportunities to plan for the future.
Even winning over the demanding Stamford Bridge crowd is no guarantee of survival at Chelsea. The popular Claudio Ranieri was the first manager fired by Abramovich in 2004, and Ancelotti went just a week after fans chanted ”Carlo, Carlo” during the team’s final home match of the season.
”They gave me fantastic support,” Ancelotti said. ”In the moments when it was not so good, they stayed close to the team, to the players.”
Experienced at working under a demanding owner, Ancelotti was hired after winning two Champions League trophies with Silvio Berlusconi’s Milan, but much of his success there was based upon the work of the back-room staff he brought in.
The so-called ”Milan Lab” dedicated to extending the career of experienced older players through innovative physiotherapy and medical techniques allowed Ancelotti to rely upon Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi and Paolo Maldini for far longer than might otherwise have been expected.
That pattern seemed to continue with the Blues, but new Premier League rules limiting clubs to 25-man squads exposed the lack of depth when front line players were absent this season.
”In my opinion, sometimes I’ve done a good job,” Ancelotti said. ”Sometimes I could have done better.”
As well as being a gifted tactician and man manager, Mourinho was fortunate to inherit a settled squad from Ranieri. Bolstering that lineup with a handful of players from his Champions League-winning FC Porto side, Mourinho ended Chelsea’s 50-year wait for the English league title.
But the chances of any coach matching that immediate impact are so slim that Mourinho himself figures prominently on bookmakers’ lists of likely candidates to become Abramovich’s seventh manager in eight years.
That scenario is unlikely after Mourinho’s acrimonious exit and present contract with Real Madrid, but Chelsea’s previous success in gambling on a young Portuguese could convince Abramovich to take a chance on Andre Villas-Boas.
The 33-year-old Villas-Boas, who worked under Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea as a scout, last week became the youngest coach to win a UEFA club competition when he guided Porto to the Europa League title.
Mourinho swapped Portugal for west London after guiding Porto to the UEFA Cup and Champions League in successive years. He won the Premier League in each of his first two seasons but eventually left a month into the 2007-08 campaign following a series of disagreements with Abramovich.
Abramovich would have no problem paying a release clause in Villas-Boas’ contract that has been reported at ?15 million, although that could undermine the club’s efforts to rein in its spending as it tries to conform with UEFA’s financial fair play rules.
Villas-Boas was initially rated the favorite by British bookmaker William Hill, but he has said he would like another year before taking a high-profile job.
That mantle has now passed to Marco van Basten following rumors that Hiddink had recommended the former Netherlands and Ajax coach to his friend Abramovich.
Van Basten would appear to be a riskier appointment after an unsuccessful two-year spell with the Netherlands was followed by his exit from Ajax just one year into a four-year contract. Van Basten has not coached since his 2009 departure from the Amsterdam club.
Abramovich is reportedly considering bringing back Hiddink despite him winning only the FA Cup in his short spell two years ago.
Hiddink was only ever a temporary coach first time around after Abramovich ended Scolari’s seven-month tenure, juggling the job with his commitment to lead the Russia national side.
Abramovich was said to want him to stay, but Hiddink would not walk out on Russia while he had a contract and never even had the chance to enter the transfer market with Chelsea.
Hiddink’s agent said Monday that his client, now manager of Turkey, could return to club management despite widespread reports that the 64-year-old Dutchman is only interested in the less demanding role of sporting director.
Cees van Nieuwenhuizen reiterated that Hiddink would not break his contract with Turkey, which means that Hiddink could be unavailable until October, two months after the start of the Premier League season.