Villas-Boas the latest to be crushed by Abramovich’s expectations at Chelsea

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a tough man to please, just ask Andre Villas-Boas as the 34-year-old was sacked following only 257 inauspicious days in charge at the club. The west Londoners now search for their eighth manager in 12 years, but where did it all go wrong for the Portuguese?

Villas-Boas felt the full force of Abramovich’s intolerance, but football at Chelsea is an ever-increasing results business and the Russian billionaire’s unremitting thirst for success has overpowered many respected managers – so the former Porto man finds himself in esteemed company. At times he was perceived as his own worst enemy, with the team’s Champions League 3-1 defeat in Naples a case in point. A substitutes role for Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, against a vibrant and cultured Napoli side was perhaps more a defiant manager’s statement than an intent to progress in the competition.

Furthermore, according to BBC Sport, some senior players reportedly found his relatively young-age reason to lack belief in his footballing ideologies, ideologies that implied less match-time for supposed pivotal players. Rumour of dressing-room divide followed, as did a defining fluctuation in results. In his defence however, he was never publicly backed by the club when he needed it most (see BBC) and that support may well have buoyed his Chelsea career.

In some respects he faced an impossible task and for that he should be granted some empathy. By the sheer appointment of someone his age, and at such a cost – with FC Porto receiving around £15m in compensation – the perception was of a long-term acquisition by Abramovich with Villas-Boas allowed time and money to re-build with his own blueprint. This fresh approach, which must have been discussed with the board, would eventually mean phasing out some of the club’s stalwarts. Granted, results had suffered during this period, but they are still in three of four major competitions – with a top-four spot representing an ever-growing entity – but instant gratification cannot always complement such transition.

Even during Villas-Boas’ short-lived reign, incessant reports threatened to derail him with the likes of Rafael Benitez being linked with his job (see Daily Mail). The Spaniard seems a likely candidate, after spending over a year out of management and with significant experience of the Premier League, but whether he could be enticed to work under such pressure – with the former Liverpool owners partly to blame for his Anfield departure according to The Telegraph – remains to be seen. His potential appointment makes sense on certain levels as he built his Liverpool side from solid defensive roots, something Chelsea currently lack, and for the strength of his relationship with the once-revered, but now unrecognisable, Fernando Torres.

Abramovich’s impatience may ultimately hinder him finding his perfect candidate, as few managers possess enough self-assurance to work under such hierarchical spontaneity. As for Villas-Boas, he would have hoped for more resilience in the face of adversity from the club’s owner, but his reputation precedes him, and the Portuguese is the latest to be crushed by the Russian’s ruthless approach.

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