24 april 2009

Nästa manager?

Även publicerad på Chelsea Vital.

Guus Hiddink is and has been my dream manager for at least ten years. I am his hugest admirer and every time a manager name have been mentioned for Chelsea I have thrown his name into the hat. I was opposed to sacking Scolari, because I am not a great believer in the sacking method of turning seasons around. But when we got Hiddink I just knew things would change dramatically at our club. Unfortunately due to the circumstances only for a short while, but the standard he is setting makes replacing him virtually impossible.

In a perfect world Guus Hiddink would be manager for Chelsea the rest of his life. I believe in long term commitments. Sir Red Nose have proven this at Man U, Wenger Whiner is currently proving me wrong at Arsenal. Tubby Benitez has done it at Liverpool, even if his only title came early on, still Liverpool is a better team today than the one that beat Milan on the fluke. I believed José Mourinho would be that manager, but sadly he is a personality self-destruct.

I have no doubt Guus Hiddink will keep his word to the Russian FA and take his Russian project as long as possible.

Still I think Guus Hiddink could be our future manager.

Contradictory enough for you?

There are certain factors that will play a huge part in the picking of our future manager. And some of those are totally out of our, Chelsea`s control.

The thing that will affect the look on who and how about our future manager is the Champions League. If we lose it again we will go for quick short term management in order to get the Holy Grail for Roman Abramovich. There is no question in my mind that Roman regards the Champions League more important than just as most all the fans consider the Premier League the most important. Though right now even I want the CL more than the PL, but that is only because it is the only ugly cup we have not achieved yet. If Guus gives us the CL, then Chelsea might settle down and start to build for a longer term future, if not Roman will push for it the next season with a high octane solution.

I think it is virtually impossible to guess what will happen until we know the outcome of the Champions League. Luckily we are very much in contention for it, despite our opponents in the next round. I`ve said it all season, Barcelona is the team to beat, but Liverpool scared me more.

Likewise, a solution with Hiddink and the Russian FA is viable due to the qualifications for the World Cup. There are a couple of different options in this.

First. Hiddink is signed up to be our manager post-World Cup. That means we will have an interim manager for about a year. A manager with a thankless task and with the absolute demand to keep us in the Champions League run. This manager will be a dead man walking, and hired on those conditions. The question is who would accept such a task?

Many more unknown names would, and some oldies. I think one would be Sven-Göran Ericsson, and I do hope he is not considered as he has not developed football-wise the last decade. But that kind of bridging management could suit him well. For the right kind of money even Ancelotti might accept conditions like these, though of course not openly. And only if Milan changes their position on keeping him.

Second. Which is the same scenario really but with a much shorter time-span. Hiddink have a clause in his Russian contract that he can be released immediately if Russia misses the qualification for the World Cup. This we will know already before December. Russia is right now second in their group and I believe they will not catch Germany. That means they will have to play a play-off round for a World Cup place with the other second placed teams. Such an outcome is almost entirely up to the draw. There are some great nations that they can be teamed up against. If Russia loses, Hiddink will be available in just a few months.

This is a gamble against Russia, but if Chelsea trully believes this even Ray Wilkins might be asked to stay on as interim manager which will not be a bad solution. He knows the team and he is capable enough to carry the team with the players we have today for a couple of months.

Thirdly is that the Russian FA (with some financial nudging) decides that Guus Hiddink can manage both roles. To keep on managing Chelsea and the Russian team on the side. After all, with good help it is surely possible even if Russia qualifies for the World Cup. I think Chelsea and Russia will explore this option very carefully and then put the question to Guus. In my eyes it is possible to do this and I think all three parties are professional enough to make it work even if Guus will have to put Russia slightly ahead of Chelsea during the autumn part of the season. I do not think it will be ventured until the season is over though.

So do not write off the Hiddink option yet, as there are solutions possible even as Guus Hiddink will keep his word to Russia. After all Guus Hiddink is god in the manager business to me and the best manager in the world, whatever the rednosed fans think. Guus has done it with so many, siralex really only with ideal circumstances in one club.

Then there is the scenario that Hiddink really is out of the picture, and I do not for a second believe in the mentioned idea of keeping him on as a consultant. No manager worth his mien will accept that coming into Chelsea. Did we not try that with the stupid Grant-Mourinho setup already?

Should we go for experience or try to rebuild with a young, new manager? That is the main question and I for one believe that it totally depends on what happens in the Champions League. That is the question that everything rests upon. So for the discussion we simply have to make an inventory of the names mentioned I think.

Personally I hope Chelsea picks a long-term solution with a young manager. Then my first choice is:

Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke. They have made small wonders at Upton Park with a extremely injury-prone team, bad starting conditions and no funds. The manager effort of the year for me in the Premier League. And the football West Ham is playing is sure attractive enough and winning enough for them to continue this work in Chelsea. They both have huge Blue hearts and we all know that Zola is predestined to end up at Stamford Bridge again.

West Ham are desperately trying to sign them up already with a pay check that Chelsea can outbid without no problems. West Ham is a club basically on the brink of ruin, and they are due to be taken over by a banking consortium, and we all know what that will mean for Zola in terms of keeping or buying players. He will very probably have to strip West Ham of all talent and get absolutely nothing to buy replacements for. Zola is incredibly loyal, but staying on with conditions like that is career suicide and an idiot, that our god is not.

If they do not come I hope for Roberto di Matteo, equally "inexperienced" but also with a blue heart and good job with MK Dons behind him. And maybe he should be paired up with Ray Wilkins whom I think has learned loads from the brief time with Hiddink.

If we step up on the experience scale I think we will get a foreign manager. Simply because the English managers available are about on par with the English referees - no way good enough. There is no English manager I think can do the job, the closest will be young Clough at Derby. But then I prefer Roberto Martinez from Cardiff that has done very good work there. (Yes, he is Spanish, but he is making his career in English-Welsh football).

Among the British we have an old fox that I do not think is on the Chelsea radar; Martin O`Neill at Aston Villa. He has the qualifications and the pedigree and a great enthusiasm and engagement. A much better choice would be David Moyes who has impressed me for years with the work he has done at Everton. They say he is being groomed for Man U which is rubbish. No Evertonian is groomed for Man U even if they can buy mercenaries like Rooney. But of course they are looking at him if Sir Alex ever steps down. The question mark I have about Moyes is that he is used to working with small means and it could be a culture shock coming to Chelsea. He is one of the best organisers of a team in the business, but not that hot as game coach. Still a very good choice if you ask me.

Frank Rijkaard is the name mentioned all the time. Partly because he is Dutch and supposed to be able to work with Hiddink if he has any part of the club after May. You all know what I think of Rijkaard. I think he is a poser and a fraud as manager. What everyone also keeps on forgetting is that Rijkaard is not an experienced manager. He has only managed Barcelona, which is like claiming to be a concerto pianist on a self playing piano. You can not really fail, though I think Rijkaard has come close to that line even with Barcelona. Look at the last season, with the material at his hands Rijkaard honestly should have done a heck of a lot better. I do not want to see Rijkaard in Chelsea, not at all. I have no trust whatsoever in him. His assistants (incl Ten Cate) ran the show at Nou Camp and when Barcelona replaced him with a player with a huge Barcelona heart, Pep Guardiola Rijkaard was just exposed as the Emperor`s New Clothes even more.

Carlo Ancelotti is the second most tipped name. He says he is staying, the club says he is staying - still nobody believes it. I have been very doubtful but he has breathed some new life into the geriatric ward that is Milan after an awful season last. I think he might be an interim solution that is passable while we wait for the second coming. Ancelotti is capable enough to win titles with Chelsea.

A new name thrown into the fight from me, as more interim manager, is Ottmar Hitzfeld from Germany. He has what it takes, experience, know-how and he is at an age that would suit us for a shorter term.

Among other names I would be interested to see discussed is actually Juande Ramos. Yes, he failed at Spurs - but that was more Spur`s fault than his. The worrying thing is that he was according to rumours not very interesting in adapting to English. But he has the goods to be a good manager and he is doing very well at Real Madrid. Another very interesting name from Spain is Villarreal`s Pellegrini that have done small wonders with the small club Villarreal and had they not been so hit by injuries they would have pushed Arsenal much harder in the quarter finals.

I have a soft spot for Spalletti of Roma, but he has not impressed as much lately as earlier. Fiorentina`s Cesare Prandelli is another manager I find interesting. And why not Italy`s U-21 coach Gianluigi Casiraghi who also has a Chelsea past?

From the international scene Bilic from Croatia is an option, as Joachim Löw. They are no Hiddink but viable options. Bilic might be the only one of those available though, but I do not think Bilic will leave until Croatia is out of the race for the World Cup and in that case why bother when Hiddink is the only one worth waiting for.

There is no lack of candidates for the best job in football this Summer. But to me there is no obvious choice except doing everything possible to keep Guus Hiddink, even if we have to share him with a couple of hundreds million russians. Also, there is no guaranteed success with any name, even Rijkaard might surprise when they come to a club like Chelsea. We have a mercurial owner that have little patience with managers that do not deliver, there is not before either a tradition of keeping managers long term in our club. Ken Bates was almost Spanish in his hiring and firing too.

For me getting a good man-manager and game-coach is the most important. We have the best in the business in both already and of all the ones mentioned no one is close to Hiddink in these qualities. The second best in the world is José Mourinho whom I would always welcome back, if he can tone down his personality off the pitch a notch or two. But is Mourinho likely to come back, not this soon in my opinion. A couple too many sourdoughs have to heal out first.

So my recommendation is Hiddink, or bring Zola back already and give him the time and patience he needs. After all, Zola struggled hard with West Ham before Christmas, but perseverance has paid off already. I had him as a firing-candidate in any other club than West Ham (that can not afford to fire anyone) early on. No longer, I am very impressed what he has done already.





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