Andre Villas-Boas lands toughest job in football – patience is the order of the day

by Nicholas Godden

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Newly appointed Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas arrives at Stamford Bridge from FC Porto with very little managerial experience, but a growing reputation that usurps even the most accomplished of European coaches. Awaiting the young Portuguese tactician, the toughest job in football – not the act of managing Chelsea Football Club, but the unenviable task of satisfying Roman Abramovich’s ambition.

At just 33 Villas-Boas became the youngest manager to win a European trophy as Porto secured last Season’s Europa League crown. In the same season the club completed a domestic double, remaining undefeated in the Portuguese championship.

If Abramovich wants to see Villas-Boas emulate that kind of success at Chelsea, the Russian billionaire must display an understanding of a virtue that the previous eight years would suggest he is unfamiliar with. Patience. A young coach still learning his trade must, unlike his predecessors, be afforded time to make his mark on a Chelsea side entering a transitional period.

Surely even Abramovich would not  be so frivolous with his money that he would pay, with approbation, a staggering £13.3 million to release Villas-Boas from his contract, offer him a three-year deal (reported to be close to £5 million a year), only to unmercifully wield the axe at the first sign of second place.

While Villas-Boas, who is returning to Chelsea after working as an oppostition scout as a member of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff, will be very aware he is Abramovich’s sixth permanent manager since acquiring the club in 2003, though it is not something he is concerned about.

“There is not going to be more or less tolerance for me if I am not successful so this is the challenge I face and I feel confident that we can motivate everybody, not only the players but also the structure.

“I feel confident I can respond to the ambitions of the supporters and the ambitions of the owner and the administration.”

If Villas-Boas is to deliver Abramovich the success he demands, his first, and potentially most important challenge will be to earn the respect of a squad containing several senior players who hold a major influence at the club.

The backing of John Terry and Frank Lampard is vital and any existing memories of ‘Andre – Jose’s lackey who provided opposition match reports’ must be rapidly banished.

A newly appointed manager can usually rely upon their past accolades in the game, as a player and a coach, to command the respect of their players. Villas-Boas, as a player, has none, as a manager, very little.

And what of Didier Drogba.

The latter half of last season provided ample evidence that the Ivorian and £50 million striker Fernando Torres were incapable of forging any kind of functional partnership in attack. If frequently left on the bench, Drogba’s bullish attitude and petulant temperament could develop into a highly unwelcome distraction for the new manager. It’s a problem that might be best solved if the club amicably part company with their talismanic frontman.

Villas-Boas has inherited a squad that desperately needs an injection of youth, and at 33, Drogba’s best form is almost certainly behind him. Selling the former Marseille striker may even be in the best interest of both parties. Furthermore, Villas-Boas will undoubtedly have his own transfer targets, rather Abramovich will have a list that the new coach will be allowed to choose from.

Chelsea have been linked with a raid on Villas-Boas’ former club Porto, a strategy that Jose Mourinho successfully implemented when he made the trip from Estádio do Dragão to Chelsea in 2004. Having followed Mourinho’s route from Porto to London it is unsurprising that comparisons have been drawn between the new Chelsea boss and the self-proclaimed ‘special one’.

Villas-Boas has been quick to dispel those comparisons though, after being dubbed ‘mini Mourinho’ and ‘ginger Jose’ by sections of the media. The differences between the two soon become apparent. Mourinho announced himself in England with an arrogance and self-importance that Villas-Boas deliberately deflects from.

“Don’t expect something from one man.

“The main important thing that people have to reflect on is that I don’t see the game as a one-man show, I see the game as the getting together of ideas and collective ideas and good players,” he told the club’s official website.

Villas-Boas began his coaching career as an apprentice to the late Sir Bobby Robson, after posting a letter under the former England manager’s door. And it is Sir Bobby that Villas-Boas attributes as having the biggest influence on his career.

“I see myself much more in the image of Bobby Robson than Mourinho. Like him I’ve got English heritage, a big nose & I like red wine.”

by Nicholas Godden

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