In the brief period since Andre Villas-Boas’s dismissal as Chelsea manager, there has already been an entertaining array of names floated in the press as potential replacements. First it was former Liverpool and Inter Milan boss Rafa Benitez. Then of course there are the two mega-managers du jour – Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
As a Chelsea fan, I hope the club doesn’t choose Guardiola. He strikes me as cocky, and I prefer managers to have a dose of humility. With rumors abound that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is ready to lure Guardiola to Chelsea with a huge contract, I feel it wouldn’t be worth it. In fact, I’d far rather see that money invested on players. Furthermore, I question whether Barcelona’s success over the past few seasons is a result of managerial wizardry or player recruitment/development genius.
Then there’s the sentimental idea of Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge. Yes, there were good times when Mourinho was in charge of the Blues, but former coaches that are re-hired to revive past glories rarely pan out (see Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, and Kevin Keegan at Newcastle). Mourinho obviously has coaching acumen and plenty of success managing big personalities.
The issue with Mourinho is his self-indulgent attitude. Take the Champions League tie between Barcelona and Inter Milan. Rather than letting his team absorb most of the limelight, he chose to race around the Nou Camp field much to the annoyance of Victor Valdes. He would also use the final to position himself for the Real Madrid job. He essentially had a foot out the door while his team was getting ready to play for the world’s biggest club prize. What kind of coach does that? (A smart one you may say.)
Now Mourinho’s doing the same thing in Madrid — advertising his availability to other clubs subtly in the press over the past couple months. His much-publicized house hunt in London was no accident. Fans value loyalty in their players and coaches. I look at David Moyes’ recent celebration of a decade at Everton and can’t help but wonder what that kind of managerial longevity could accomplish at Chelsea — which is the problem . . . If Mourinho returned to Chelsea, it would not be a long-term proposition.
The most interesting name to surface is French national team coach Laurent Blanc.. Blanc walked into a disastrous situation with France in the wake of the 2010 World Cup, and seems to have deftly calmed things down, demonstrating an ability to manage some very strong personalities while also winning. He has a lot of potential, plus, unlike Pep, it wouldn’t break the bank to get him.
I’d also advocate Brendan Rodgers name to be included in the running. He’d be far cheaper than Guardiola or Mourinho and has his Welsh side playing stylish football with great attacking flair. He also has previous with Chelsea. In 2004, he began coaching the youth team before being promoted to reserve team manager in 2006. Rodgers wouldn’t necessarily be a “safe” choice when compared to the others mentioned (plus Rodgers has said he wouldn’t be interested in the position), but it doesn’t seem to have the same ego baggage as the Iberian options and he might be less likely to jump ship when other options present themselves.
Ironically, while the managerial rumor mill cranks on, Chelsea’s interim coach Roberto Di Matteo has somehow revived the team in time to make the semifinal of the Champions League and the final of the FA Cup. What will Abramovich do if the team actually wins the Champions League under Di Matteo? The way things are going, Chelsea may already have their next manager. After all, sometimes it’s better not to mess with success, something Abramovich tends to disagree on.