Why sign for Chelsea when they don’t have a manager?

Posted on June 19, 2011 by

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At this time of year there is little more to do than speculate about where a player’s future may lie. The Under 21 European Championship is underway but is only followed by a dedicated minority. Similarly, Fifa Women’s World Cup kicks off next week. Apart from those fairly under-the-radar events taking place, the domestic football fan is left to wonder who will be playing where next season.

It is Chelsea who have been in the papers most predominantly over the last few days. They reportedly had a £22m bid for Tottenham’s Croatian star Luka Modric turned down, and are in talks with Anderlecht over the signing of Belgian ace Romelu Lukaku. It is the clearest example yet that Roman Abramovich is the force behind Chelsea’s bigger signings. It is common knowledge that Jose Mourinho did not want Andre Shevchenko at the club when he was signed for £30m in 2006. And Carlo Ancelotti never seemed entirely comfortable with the selection headache that £50m signing Fernando Torres gave him in January.

If there was any doubt that Chelsea were making signings without the manager’s consent then surely the targeting of players without having a manager in place cements the idea that it is Abramovich and his upstairs colleagues who make these decisions. So, what’s wrong with that? If it works then perhaps there is nothing wrong with doing things that way. It is commonplace all over Europe to have a director of football and have them identify signings and do the negotiations. But has it ever worked at Chelsea during Abramovich’s reign? Mourinho loved the club; their best chance of winning the Champions League, the trophy that Abramovich desires the most, was surely with him in charge. But he left, seemingly because of the Russian’s interference. Even though Chelsea got to the Champions League Final in 2008, Avram Grant has never been seen as the reason behind that near success. And Carlo Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the season despite winning a league and cup double the season before. There is a clear problem at Chelsea with two vital components of success. Trust and patience. Ancelotti, from a football manager’s point of view, probably didn’t want to sign Torres in January. Having him and Drogba in the same squad always looked a little risky, though if Drogba stays next season and it works then that notion could be proved wrong. But it may have worked better if Ancelotti was left to it until the end of the season. Then reinforcements could have been made in time for next season.

Speculation is rife as to who Chelsea’s next manager will be. Guus Hiddink’s name is the one being touted around the most but no one is sure what will happen. So it is curious of Luka Modric to come out so publicly with his wish to join Chelsea. Does he not want to know who the manager is going to be? Why does that not matter? He will be on a fantastic salary if he does go and he will be playing Champions League football. He is one of the Premiership’s best midfielders. He needs to play consistently at a top-level club and he has all the ingredients to become one of the World’s best players. But no matter how much Chelsea offer him, no matter what their potential is, it will slightly strange for Modric to sign if there is no manager in place. It will just be a naked realisation that the owner who doesn’t really quite know what he’s doing, is making what are managerial decisions. If Abramovich came to Chelsea with trust and patience in mind they could have perhaps fulfilled the dominant promise they showed at the beginning of his ownership. A lack of understanding of football and not handling his employees well means that for every step Chelsea take forward, they seem to take two back.

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Posted in: Europe, Football