Whoever takes on what is becoming an impossible job, another few episodes of the Stamford Bridge soap opera are likely to write themselves.
The trials and tribulations at Chelsea Football Club are compulsive viewing. They bear the traits of a soap opera that you just can’t stop watching, no matter how unbelievable the plots seem to have become. The storylines involve the same people, time and again. Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole might as well be members of the Mitchell family. Just when you think their time has come to an end, they find a new lease of life and stir the pot.
You feel that until a manager arrives that can ship out the out-dated furniture, Chelsea will remain in a state of constant limbo. The battle between Frank Lampard and Andre Villas-Boas undermined the Portuguese’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, creating an unfixable divide within the camp. Lampard’s gripe was that he was unhappy with the amount of game time he was getting, particularly in the big matches. The fact is that he played in 84% of the teams Villas-Boas selected, more than was the case under Carlo Ancelotti and Avram Grant.
But which manager can solve the problem of Chelsea’s pensioners? It is certainly not the job for an inexperienced man, as the past eight months have shown us. A strong character is required to deal with the egos within the dressing room, which seem to think they have grown bigger than the club.
The shadow that has loomed over the Blues since his exit in 2007 is that of Jose Mourinho. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ is the most successful manager in the club’s history, and no one has been able to establish such a bond with the players or supporters since he left. A return to the club he took to such highs would be akin to the return of a king, or, as Mourinho might suggest given his unrelenting confidence, the resurrection of Christ.
A return for Mourinho would be seen as something of an admittance by Roman Abramovich that he made a mistake by sacking him in the first place. Their relationship was so fractured by contract disputes, staff appointments and criticism over the style of play that by the end of Mourinho’s reign, the split came as something of a relief.
But the relative lack of success – one Premier League title in the subsequent five seasons – suggests that the Russian was overly hasty. Common belief is that Abramovich makes football decisions with his heart rather than his head – and one must wonder if a part of Roman still craves Mourinho’s winning touch.
Chelsea have failed to emerge from Jose Mourinho's shadow
It has been reported that Chelsea have sounded out Pep Guardiola regarding his desire for a new challenge. The Barcelona manager could become the first manager to retain the Champions League if the Catalans life the trophy in May. That, coupled with the unparalled brand of football that he has Barcelona playing, would set him apart from pretty much every other manager in the world.
The question, then, must be why on earth would Guardiola swap a job in which he has security, success and respect, for one with the life expectancy of a goldfish? If he wants to test his skills in the Premier League then there is a certain job in the north-west that is set to become available in the next couple of years. Manchester United are a club reknowned for their stability, attractive football and production of young players. In this sense, Guardiola is made for Old Trafford. Chelsea? Not so much.
A name that has cropped up repeatedly is Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard has openly admitted he would like the job, and believes his credentials make him a suitable choice. The prospect of Benitez at the Bridge is likely to horrify Chelsea fans, with the bitter rivalry created during their epic Champions League ties with Liverpool still scorched into their mind.
It would be hard for the Blues faithful to forgive and forget, but Abramovich recognises Benitez’s qualities, particularly in bringing a European Cup to Anfield. The fact that Benitez is unattached would appeal to Chelsea, given the cost of hiring and firing in the past, and he is a man not afraid to put a few noses out of joint to get the best for his club. He could be the one to move the old guard along.
Other names have been thrown around – Joachim Low and Harry Redknapp to name just two. But one must think that the next boss will come from one of Benitez, Guardiola or Mourinho. The three are very different managers with distinct qualities and faults. Regardless of their respective successes, failure will not be tolerated. Whoever takes on what is becoming an impossible job, another few episodes of the Stamford Bridge soap opera are likely to write themselves.