When word got out that Roman Abramovich was preparing to cough up £13m to prise a rookie 33-year-old manager from his Porto contract last July, there was an explosion of interest. Twitter went bonkers, sport websites were running live blogs and journalists were stumbling over themselves to stick their two-pence in.
Abramovich's vision for a new, younger Chelsea was bold and in Andre Villas-Boas he thought he had found his perfect conductor. It was time to cash in. There was no doubting the talent of Villa-Boas - he had just scooped a European and domestic treble with Porto - but could he really make the step up to a club like Chelsea? At 33? With such little experience?
As we have subsequently discovered; no, he couldn’t.
The warning signs were visible from the off. The infamous high defensive line so stubbornly administered by Villas-Boas was nothing short of disastrous. It can be a very effective method of play if you have defenders like Carles Puyol and Dani Alves, not the likes of John Terry, who has the similar turning circle of a small vessel.
His man-management skills were naive and ill-advised. The players he so badly needed to get onside to assist his revolution were the ones he alienated in an attempt to stamp his authority. Ironic, really, that these same players won the trophy which has relieved Tottenham Hotspur of their Champions League spot.
Before too long, Villas-Boas had the demeanour of a man under pressure and you could sense his growing discontent at being targeted by the press. He was snitty and he couldn’t handle criticism (which came his way pretty regularly). Unfortunately for him, the young Portuguese manager didn’t quite have the level of backing from Abramovich his arrogance had suggested he had. He was a goner just eight months in to the job.
Unfortunately, he didn’t quite have the level of backing from Abramovich his arrogance had suggested he had. He was a goner just eight months in to the job.
However you look at that unhappy marriage and whatever conclusions are drawn, it was just not going to work. It was the wrong appointment for both parties. A sham from start to finish. Four months on and AVB is back in Premier League business. Quite how, I’m not sure, but he’s back nonetheless.
One would hope the attitude which won him few popularity contests during his time at Stamford Bridge has been replaced by a more relaxed, charm-intensive outlook ready to prove everybody wrong. One indication of his potential attitude change is surely epitomised by the fact he has talked Spurs chairman Daniel Levy in to giving him a job.
Levy would have been only all too aware of the risk attached with employing Villas-Boas; the horror show in West London was open for all to see. Like he did at Chelsea, the 34-year-old has signed a three year contract and will no doubt label it his ‘project’ as he so tirelessly did previously.
Let’s make it clear; in those three years (should he last that long) Villas-Boas will be expected to not only ensure Spurs’ Champions League status, but also to make them genuine title challengers. For a club without Champions League football, a fairly modest transfer kitty and wage structure, that is a monumental challenge for anybody, let alone a guy trying to salvage his managerial career in the Premier League.
People will argue that he won’t have the same egos and ‘senior’ players union to contend with at Spurs as he did at Chelsea. That may be so, but he’s still got a rebuild and one hell of a job on his hands.
Villas-Boas will be up for this, and he’ll need to be. He’ll need to show all the tenacity, charm and connection with his players he so badly lacked at Chelsea. There is no hiding place for the 34-year-old. This is his last chance saloon in the Premier League. Mess this up and there won’t be a third chance.
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