Andre Villas-Boas’s traumatic reign as Chelsea manager was ended this morning by a phone call from Moscow.
The Portuguese coach – recruited at a cost of €15 million (Dh72.3m), yet statistically the worst in Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club – now faces the prospect of his estranged mentor, Jose Mourinho, succeeding him at the club.
Abramovich was in Russia for the presidential election when he took the decision to dismiss Villas-Boas, and has installed Roberto Di Matteo as first-team coach until the end of the season. The move to promote an assistant coach to the caretaker role offers a broader choice of permanent appointments in the summer.
It is understood Pep Guardiola is the owner’s first choice to lead Chelsea next season, with the Catalan still to make a decision on extending his Barcelona contract. While Guardiola’s medium-term intention is to manage in the Premier League, he is understood to harbour reservations over doing so at Chelsea.
Mourinho, however, has already taken a decision to Real Madrid and return to English club football this summer. The Portuguese spent Tuesday in London completing the purchase of a large family home in the city as part of the preparations for his next job.
Having moulded Chelsea into a multiple-title winning side during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, the prospect of restoring their dominance and adding the Champions League is of interest to him. Mourinho, though, would expect total authority on all football decisions, a concession Abramovich has never made before.
Abramovich holds a cohort of the club’s playing staff partly responsible for results that have left Chelsea in danger of failing to qualify for next year’s Champions League and 90 minutes away from exiting this season’s competition to Napoli. Ideally, his new manager would be ready to implement a plan formulated with Villas-Boas to move on the core of Mourinho’s double-Premier League winning side – a further block to reappointing the Portuguese.
Although Villas-Boas had recently been told that Abramovich would give him until the second leg against Napoli to keep himself in a job, he diminished his own breathing space by granting an ill-considered interview to Portuguese radio station TSF two days after losing in Napoli.
Abramovich was infuriated by comments that included a critical discussion of his history of dismissing managers and a comparison of the £50m (Dh290.7m) striker Fernando Torres’s shortcomings to those of the owner’s last great transfer-market mistake, Andriy Shevchenko.
Saturday’s 1-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion further convinced Abramovich his manager had lost control of a rebellious squad and Villas-Boas was called from Russia the following morning to be informed of his dismissal.
A club statement read: “Andre Villas-Boas has parted company with Chelsea Football Club today. The board would like to record our gratitude for his work and express our disappointment that the relationship has ended so early.
“Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season.”