It’s getting on for 150 days since Chelsea last fired their manager, so naturally, thoughts at Stamford Bridge are turning to the search for the club’s next boss.
Roberto Di Matteo’s ouster came on November 21 last year – you see, winning the club’s first-ever Champions League title doesn’t buy you much time under owner Roman Abramovich, who firmly believes that impatience is a virtue.
The impressively-unpopular Rafael Benitez was installed as interim manager until the end of this season. Chelsea could yet finish in the Premier League’s top four and win the Europa League and FA Cup, but the writing’s been on the wall for Benitez for some time: writing that says “goodbye” in big, bright letters. You could argue that since supporters were mounting campaigns against Benitez even before his first game, he never stood a chance. But that would be to assign a level of fan influence on key decisions that simply doesn’t exist at a club run as the personal plaything of a capricious Russian oligarch.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck told Al Jazeera today that he is “completely open-minded” about the identity of Benitez’s successor. “We’re all thinking about it and have some ideas and certainly Mr Abramovich is thinking about it. At the moment we’re concentrating on the end of the season,” the American added.
The London club have had eight permanent managers since Abramovich bought the club in 2003 – “permanent” having a very loose definition at Stamford Bridge, of course. Talking about wielding the ax, Buck used a euphemism which only served to make the process seem even more coldly ruthless.
“I know we have fired what most people would say are a lot of managers – terminated the relationship is a better way to describe it – but we’ve always thought long and hard when we’ve done it. It’s always difficult, it’s always sad when a relationship is terminated,” he said. “We don’t look back, we always look forward and see where we’re going and figure out how we get there. We certainly believe in stability in managers, but it has to be with the right manager.”
The right manager used to be Jose Mourinho, who led the club to a pair of Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. Could it be again? Since Pep Guardiola opted for Bayern Munich, speculation has linked the Real Madrid head coach with a return to west London. Mourinho said after yesterday’s Champions League quarter-final win over Galatasaray that he will discuss his future with Real president Florentino Perez in the summer.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.