x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Chelsea stars are headed for the exit

Andre Villas-Boas wants to take a broom to the roster, but he may not survive the axe himself to see all the changes he wants through.

Andre Villas-Boas has been vocal about his desire to overhaul Chelsea's roster but may not survive his own failings to see them through.
Andre Villas-Boas has been vocal about his desire to overhaul Chelsea's roster but may not survive his own failings to see them through.

Andre Villas-Boas is preparing a clear-out of a rebellious Chelsea squad that would see almost every surviving member of Jose Mourinho's double-Premier League title-winning side exit Stamford Bridge.

Should the embattled Chelsea manager be permitted to implement the radical reconstruction project, he will attempt to move on at least 10 long-serving players this summer, according to well-placed sources.

England internationals Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard lead a list of names for whom buyers are being sought. Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Florent Malouda, acquired at a combined cost of over £60 million (Dh351m), are available for sale, as is Paulo Ferreira.

Didier Drogba and his Ivory Coast teammate, Salomon Kalou, are to be allowed to leave as their contracts expire.

Villas-Boas remains undecided whether to sell Petr Cech and promote on-loan Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to first-choice.

The manager's preference would be to cash in on Fernando Torres' diminishing value following a spectacularly unsuccessful £50m transfer from Liverpool 13 months ago, though owner Roman Abramovich is unlikely to sanction a sale.

Such a radical overhaul would leave John Terry - who has stood against the dressing room sceptics in his support of the manager - as the sole survivor from Mourinho's core team, who won the league in 2005 and 2006.

As Villas-Boas has recognised in the past 10 days, his own presence at Chelsea is also endangered.

According to sources close to the young coach, Abramovich has informed Villas-Boas he will not be manager next season if Chelsea fail to progress past Napoli in the Champions League.

Not only must the Portuguese overcome a two-goal deficit to eliminate the Serie A side, he is also expected to significantly improve performances and results in general.

Though doubts about Villas-Boas' effectiveness have led Chelsea to approach Fabio Capello and Rafa Benitez about taking over until the end of the season, Abramovich fundamentally supports the plans to overhaul a playing staff his current manager declared markedly inferior to Manchester City's on Friday.

The Russian billionaire is not ready to admit his UK record acquisition of Torres was an error but is open to dispensing with others whether or not Villas-Boas continues at the club.

The turnover of players in a relatively depressed transfer market will be a complicated process.

Cole, 31, has been offered to Barcelona on more than one occasion during the course of the last year but will resist a move away from Stamford Bridge as he enters the final season of a six-figure contract.

He faces losing his position to Everton left-back Leighton Baines, who has a number of admirers within the Chelsea set-up and would maintain the squad's quotient of home-grown players.

Lampard, who like his England teammate has told Villas-Boas that Chelsea will never win a trophy with the Portuguese as manager, has no desire to leave the club and would require a substantial settlement on his six-figure weekly deal. The midfielder remains hopeful that a replacement for Villas-Boas would properly recognise his qualities, including his status as Chelsea's leading, and most consistent, goalscorer.

Resistance to Villas-Boas' management has only grown since Abramovich spent several days monitoring his methods last month. Torres' dissatisfaction with a coach charged with fully utilising his expensive talents was made public by adviser Antonio Sanz last week.

"Villas-Boas is not fulfilling Chelsea's expectations and he's really scared because he is really close to getting sacked," said Sanz on Spanish television.

"It's true that Fernando Torres' statistics aren't that great and that's the reason he's not with Spain for the Venezuela game.

"But I don't think Torres has a problem, it's just that Chelsea aren't helping him find his form. According to Chelsea's players, there is a bad atmosphere in the dressing room."


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