12 June, 2008

The Man Would Be King

So finally after months of speculation, Big Phil Scolari has been appointed as Avram Grant’s successor at Chelsea. For those of you not in the know, Scolari was a World Cup winner with his native Brazil in 2002, and in his five years as Portugal head coach, has led them to the final of Euro 2004, and the semi-final of World Cup 2006. Scolari made a habit of out-flanking England with both national sides, and as a proponent of attacking football and flair, is the ideal candidate for Roman Abramovich. Unlike Grant, Scolari is also a real passionate personality, even famously once reacting to a vital Portuguese win by telling the world's media that he was off to give his wife a hug, and perhaps a little more if “the mood took them.” Furthermore, he is pretty esoteric in his managerial approach too, providing both Brazilian players and Portuguese players under his command copies of Sun Tzu’s famous 6th century BC tactical manifesto The Art of War to pep them up a bit before big games.

However, it might not all be sunshine and roses in West London from now on. By no stretch of the imagination will Scolari be a patsy, or a conduit for Abramovich himself to run the team; the Brazilian is opinionated, autonomous and even volatile, meaning he won’t be told what to do and certainly if he has something to say, he will shout it. What is interesting about this appointment is that a few years ago now, he actually rejected an approach from the FA to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager because he was unhappy about media intrusion, something he will certainly have to deal with day-today at a club such as Chelsea. Now either that was a lie to dodge the difficult truth that he simply thought the national team was a hopeless and poisoned chalice (not an unreasonable position), or he has a plan to maintain his privacy. Either way, I’m sure a £15million deal helped ease any concerns he might have had. The only remaining apprehension voiced from some circles is his lack of recent European club experience, with the last seven years of his managerial career limited to the international circuit, which is clearly a totally different proposition. Success surely is success however, and before taking over the Brazilian reigns, he proved his ability in Serie A with several clubs, and back home in the national league with Palmeiras and Cruzeiro.

Now obviously Chelsea have always had money, but under Avram Grant they suffered without a big name manager to draw players to the club. With Scolari they have one of the biggest in the world, certainly matching Jose Mourinho as far as reputation amongst players goes. The Portuguese players already at Cheslea are obviously more likely to stay now, while unhappy nationals elsewhere such as Deco will be eying a lucrative move alongside their current boss. Finally, the big names on Abramovich’s supposed target-list, Kaka’ and David Villa, are going to now find it even more difficult to resist signing on that dotted line, especially with the ridiculous sums of money being touted more than likely a reality.

So what kind of Chelsea will we see next season under Big Phil then? Well hopefully an entertaining side with an attack-is-the-best-form-of-defence mentality; one that will compete with Manchester United not just on a pragmatic level, but also on a pure footballing level too.

UPDATE: Phil shows the cameras his secret weapons:

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