Chelsea battle to create new image
Published: 18.03.13 / Written by: David Gold
As Chelsea ponder their future without Rafa Benitez, they will consider the various options available to replace him.
Jose Mourinho is an obvious candidate, Mauricio Pellegrino could be another. Maybe Ernesto Valverde, or even Guus Hiddink if he chooses to continue in management. They will not get Pep Guardiola, nor Jurgen Klopp.
It must be tempting for Roman Abramovich to go back to the man who helped his team achieve such success just a few short years ago – Mourinho. He is set to leave Real Madrid, but why is he leaving Real? Abramovich should ponder that. Essentially, Mourinho is so divisive that the club and its players cannot bear to be managed by him anymore. He has dragged Real’s glorious name through the mud with his childish outbursts in the media. It is the reason Barcelona rejected him, and now Madrid understand why the Catalans did that.
That is the thing with Mourinho. He guarantees success, but at what price? Dignity and class. And respect.
Chelsea are now battling to try and regain respect in the world of football after a series of PR gaffes. Players being hauled before a judge charged with racially abusing an opponent. Another shooting an intern with an air rifle. Fans abusing a manager before he’d even selected his first team. Numerous hirings and firings, including the sacking of a man who won the Champions League in less than a year in charge.
Oh, and extraordinary spending, inflating football’s transfer market massively and doing more than most to contribute to the huge debts English football is now mired in.
Chelsea should consider this. The problem for the west Londoners is that they did not have much of a history before Roman Abramovich came along – no great period of success. They had no real identity, although it is interesting to note that they were renowned for playing great football with the likes of Roberto di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola.
Chelsea’s big problem is that their identity has been forged in recent years. The club’s identity is now rooted in a Mourinho sculpted period of time in which John Terry has been all powerful and when money has been key to their success. In short, Chelsea’s identity is built upon all of the worst things about modern football. Greedy, arrogant spoilt footballers. Excessive wealth. Defensive, dour, mechanical football. Impatience and constantly firing managers. Unbelievable arrogance and incredible gamesmanship. No team in English football does diving around and time wasting quite like Chelsea, and Ramires is one of the league’s dirtiest players, forever jumping into aggressive tackles and fouling opponents, somehow getting away with it.
Abramovich has to find a way to change Chelsea’s image now. He has some of the building blocks in place. Their best player, Juan Mata, is a wonderful, dignified and elegant midfielder. Oscar is an incredibly skilful and entertaining Brazilian who can be one of the world’s best players. Eden Hazard is a gem in the making, another player who can be one of the world’s best.
If Chelsea can do away with the players that have made them universally disliked – that is John Terry, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech and the rest of the old guard. They must then refrain from bringing back Mourinho, with his arrogance. They must also ditch pragmatic football in favour of entertaining the world and attacking. They must also stop endless hiring and firing. And they must cut out the diving, and tell Ramires to stop fouling opponents. And perhaps most of all, spending less.
If Chelsea can do all of those things, they will slowly but surely recover their dignity and respect in the football community. They have won all there is to win during Abramovich’s spell as owner, but they have won few friends and many enemies. They have not won respect, and theirs is a toxic brand. That, Abramovich is surely finding out, is worth more than any number of trophies.