When news broke that Pep Guardiola had decided his next step in management would be in the city of our most famous night, Chelsea fans were left wondering who would be taking on the poisoned chalice in the summer.
Guardiola was Abramovich’s Holy Grail. His success at Barcelona and the manner in which that success was achieved made Guardiola the ideal candidate to fulfil Roman’s burning desire for beautiful football. According to reports, Abramovich spent time trying to persuade the Spaniard to reconsider his year-long sabbatical from the game; believed to be the reason it took so long for Roberto Di Matteo to be appointed. He tried again after the sacking of Di Matteo. Now, his powers of persuasion have been rendered useless as Guardiola makes his move to Bayern Munich. But where does Roman go next in his search for the perfect Chelsea manager?
He faces a problem in his desire for Guardiola. The next manager knows he’s not first choice – and who wants to be second best? There is also a problem in the seemingly lack of world class managers – available ones at least. Think about it – make a list of the world’s best managers in your head. Not many will be free. That may prompt some fans to call for a young up and coming manager to be given the chance. But given the dismissals of AVB and RDM, Roman cannot afford to appoint another young, up and coming manager. What Chelsea need now is a Jose Mourinho – a Guus Hiddink – a Carlo Ancelotti.
After the sacking of RDM and the disaster that is Rafa Benitez, Abramovich must consider the fans. Extending Benitez’ tenancy agreement cannot be considered. Not just for the fans, but the club’s hierarchy simply could not justify it. Roman’s next appointment has got to be on that galvanizes the fans. It has to be one that the fans are united in praise and excitement for. On that basis, there can only be two contenders, both former Chelsea managers – Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink.
Hiddink came to Chelsea in another time of mayhem, but won the FA Cup and was minutes away from the Champions League final. Under the Dutchman, The Blues only lost a single match – even our Champions League defeat to Barcelona ended 1-1. With that season drawing to a close, the fans made no secret about who they wanted to take the permanent reigns with “we want you to stay, Guus Hiddink, we want you to stay” ringing about The Bridge.
But would he return? It is a difficult answer. Every time a new boss is needed, Hiddink’s name is mentioned – often with juggling his international role. That’s not a possibility this time around with Guus managing Russian financial giants, Anzhi. Financially, it’s not likely that Roman can offer anything that will tempt him. There’s also the question of whether Hiddink would actually want to leave. He sees Anzhi as a project. Having joined them as a mid-table team, he has steered them to a title contending team, sitting in second just two points behind CSKA Moscow.
The other option – Mourinho. It’s happened before. We got our hopes up last year when he was stopped in London, reportedly house hunting. Vicente Calderon has said he fully expects Jose to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season. Some say he wants Man United, but with Guardiola signing a three-year contract at Bayern, he looks the more likely successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. But what Chelsea fans won’t want is a repeat of what happened last time – enormous success and lavish love of The Special One, only for interference to taint his relationship with Abramovich, resulting in what no Chelsea fan wanted – Jose’s departure.
Reports over the past few years claim Mourinho and Abramovich’s relationship has been repaired and re-built. But I think Roman’s actions would be the ultimate factor in a possible return for Jose. Mourinho won’t want a repeat either. He won’t want to take charge of a team, fall in love with the players, the club and the fans, only to have control swiped away from him. If he were to return, Abramovich would have to do what he hasn’t done since his arrival – not interfere.