A poisoned chalice?

For the seventh time since Roman Abramovich came to Chelsea in 2003, the club is looking for a new manager.

How many times can you change your boss before the role starts to look wholly unappealing?

How many young, ambitious managers will look at the fate of Andre Villas-Boas – employed to carry out a long-term plan, told he’d get the necessary time and resources, but sacked after nine months – and steer well clear?

“Bookmakers have quickly installed Rafael Benitez as favourite but many Chelsea fans will be horrified at the prospect.”

And what experienced, successful manager would want to come to a club where, as Carlo Ancelotti found, even winning the Double can’t keep you in a job?

Managing Chelsea is in danger of becoming the impossible job – a role which ruins reputations and damages careers.

It turned Luiz Felipe Scolari from a World Cup winner to a man perceived as something of a joke.

And now it has turned Villas-Boas from the bright young thing of European football management into a man seen as unable to control a strong set of players.

As recently as 2009, Chelsea lured Ancelotti away from a massive club like AC Milan. Does the Stamford Bridge job still carry the same appeal?

Bookmakers have quickly installed Rafael Benitez as favourite but many Chelsea fans will be horrified at the prospect. He and his Liverpool team became deeply unpopular among the Blues faithful.

He did well with Valencia and won the Champions League at Liverpool, but their fortunes declined and he also fared badly following Jose Mourinho at Inter, where he lasted only months.

The bookies also offer short odds on Pep Guardiola, but why would he want to leave Barcelona?

Fabio Capello has been mentioned but his reputation was hardly enhanced by his time with England.

AVB was regarded as one of the best young coaches in the game.

Pundits have put forward names such as David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers is talented, tactically astute, wants to play nice football and used to work at Chelsea – but you could say all those things about Villas-Boas.

Moyes has thrived on the loyalty of Everton (and vice versa), spending a decade at the club – in which time Chelsea have had seven managers.

Surely he would look at the revolving door of the manager’s office at Chelsea and think it stands for everything he doesn’t.

Roberto Di Matteo, a club legend as a player, will be in charge until the end of the season.

If he secures a top-four finish, wins the FA Cup and makes unlikely progress in Europe, he could have a strong claim on getting the job permanently.

It would be something of a gamble but Villas-Boas’ appointment showed Abramovich was not averse to a change in philosophy.

The man many fans want is Mourinho, whose return would be seen as something of a second coming.

Whereas other top managers might see the relative disarray at the Bridge as off-putting, it would probably suit Mourinho’s natural confidence to be seen as the man returning to clear up the mess, letting everyone know it wouldn’t have occurred if he hadn’t been sacked last time.

And he would be right. So many of Chelsea’s problems stem from 19 September 2007, the day the club’s most successful manager of all time was deemed surplus to requirements.

If Mourinho wants to return in the summer then Abramovich has to swallow his pride and get him back.

And if that does happen, Chelsea fans should be massively grateful that, through a combination of luck, timing and his own character, one of the best managers in the world still wants to take on a job that many would see as a poisoned chalice.


James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe

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