Now that André Villas-Boas has been sacked, Chelsea is looking for a new manager. Again.
I never quite understood why Villas-Boas went to Chelsea to begin with. Well, obviously I do understand; money talks. But at the time he signed I felt like Villas-Boas was shooting himself in the foot. Had he stayed at Porto, he would have gotten some Champions League experience, and probably another league title. Chelsea paid better and was higher-profile, but there were far too many pitfalls. If the England manager is a poison chalice, than how much worse is Chelsea manager? Not only do you have to deal with the press and the inflated expectations to win everything, you also have no time to settle in before someone is calling for your head–even when you are winning. On top of that the players control the locker room, and really who wants to be subservient to a loathsome human being like John Terry? Then there is the shadow figure of Roman Abramovich who expects nothing less than total domination in England–a feat that may be more and more unlikely as Manchester City can now match him dollar for dollar–and the Champions League. Above all there is the memory of José Mourinho. It’s unfair of course, Mourinho never won the Champions League at Chelsea either (and lest we forget, Mourinho was also sacked), but Mourinho brought Chelsea to heights it had never before scaled and has yet to attain again–even if Chelsea actually did won the League/Cup double under Carlo Ancelotti.
Villas-Boas definitely did himself no favors, and as the pressure ratcheted up on all sides, he cracked. A deity in Porto and a laughingstock in London. It’s almost Shakespearean in tragic scope.
So now Abramovich is looked for a new manager and his eye is firmly fixed on Spain, at least if we are to believe the British press. Mourinho’s name is being thrown around, which is not a surprise given his (inevitable) unhappiness in Madrid and the fact that his name is always thrown around whenever Chelsea need a new manager. Rafa Benitez has also been mentioned, which boggles the mind given (1) how long ago his success was, and (2) he much of a buffoonish figure he has become.
But for me, the most alarming name mentioned is Pep Guardiola who has (again) been hedging about signing a new contract for Barcelona. Guardiola is the best manager Barcelona ever had. In not fully four seasons he won 13 of a possible 16 titles, and possibly could have won more if not for an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland. He is the epitome of the Barcelona system; he grew up in the academy, played for the first team, captained the team, managed Barcelona B, managed Barcelona proper, and is now the city’s most favored son. Pep Guardiola is Barcelona.
Managing Barcelona is not easy. It has aged Guardiola very rapidly. No doubt Guardiola is also a man aware of history. While I wouldn’t agree, there are so many pundits who believe that if Guardiola wants to be considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, he has to go and coach and win at another club, and in another league. Additionally, the Alex Ferguson type manager, the man who spends decades at one club as an absolute authority, is not really a viable model anymore. If Guardiola wants to go, I wish him the best. And thus my open letter to Pep Guardiola.
If you choose to leave Barcelona, may the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. You’ve given so much, Pep. You’ve turned this Barcelona team into possibly history’s greatest side. I want you to stay, but if you feel like you’ve given all you could, then no one can ask for more than that.
But don’t go to Chelsea. I’m thinking about you, Pep. The Barcelona backroom may be bad, but how much worse is Chelsea where you have no allies, only the whims of Roman Abramovich? At Barcelona the players are devoted to you, and those who are not are traded. At Chelsea, a few over-the-hill players rule the roost. Terry, Lampard, Drogba, they run Chelsea, not the manager. And they won’t let you do anything to jeopardize them. You saw Raul at Madrid and you know about Totti at Roma. Imagine three of them instead of one. The team needs an overhaul, and there is no La Masia production line to provide replacements. You only have the transfer market, and no recent additions will replace the unholy trinity in the fans’ eyes.
Barcelona has aged you, but Chelsea will kill you. Please don’t go, Pep! Please stay, but if you can’t stay, go somewhere else where you will be the boss. You are not some title collector like Mourinho; you are an architect and a builder. You create, you mold, you shape, and football is all the better for it.
Pep, whatever you choose to do is fine by me. But for your sake, please don’t be tempted by Abramovich’s money. Look at Villas-Boas; he was on the verge of greatness, and now his career is in tatters. I’m thinking only of you, Pep.