Abramovich needs to build foundations before appointing Guardiola
Published: 03.06.12 / Written by: David Gold
Appointing Pep Guardiola to Chelsea and hoping they turn into the free flowing London version of Barcelona seems a little far fetched.
Yet there is clearly a logic to Roman Abramovich’s desire to bring in Pep Guardiola. It is understandable too, even in the light of the Champions League win. As delighted as he was, Abramovich did not crave the Champions League in such style. He wanted his team to win it playing well, stylishly and rolling over Europe’s elite. They did it sitting back, getting outplayed, defensively and with huge fortune. It was not what Abramovich had in mind when he wanted his team to win Europe’s biggest prize. He is a perfectionist, and the win was a far from perfect one.
He is decisive, and has the reputation to tame big egos. He can also bring through young players and can spot their potential, as he has shown with the likes of Christian Tello and Pedro. Xavi and Andres Iniesta though, only player for one club. Barcelona. Unless Chelsea are planning on signing the Barcelona squad, it seems unlikely they can transform Chelsea overnight.
Appointing Guardiola would clearly be a good move. But Abramovich must understand that such a decision involves long term risk. There is nothing like the infrastructure, talent or young stars that Guardiola had when he took over Barcelona. He had all the foundations in place there. At Chelsea he must build them. That means there would be a lean spell whilst Chelsea restructure.
Guardiola would then need to turn Chelsea into a new Barcelona. But the man who created so much of what makes Barcelona great is Johan Cruyff. He did so when he was in charge of the club in the early 1990s. It has taken two decades for the laying of his foundations to reap such spectacular rewards.
Is Abramovich really willing to wait that long to enjoy the kind of success Barcelona currently have? Because that is what it takes. The majority of the Barcelona team have been playing together almost every day for the best part of two decades with a rigid philosophy in place.
Xavi, Gerard Pique and Leo Messi joined at the age of 11, whilst Cruyff was in charge. Iniesta arrived at the age of 12, Fabregas and Victor Valdes both 10, Carles Puyol 17, the same age at which Pedro arrived, and Alcantara at 14.
Chelsea need to find their equivalents of three quarters of a first team at such ages, the younger the better, and train them in a passing patient philosophy day after day, repetitively. Real Madrid assembled the world’s best squad and manager, and they lose to Barcelona almost every time they play. That is because it is difficult to replicate what Barcelona do; exceptionally difficult.
It takes time, and giving a manager the authority and influence to institute grass roots change. Abramovich has a history of proving that he cannot do that. Unless something fundamental has changed, bringing in a new coach, regardless of whom, is unlikely to give Chelsea success similar to Barcelona.