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.
With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.
[ MORE: Champions League scores ]
Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?
Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.
Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico
This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu
A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.
Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.
Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”
Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”
Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.
Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.
Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.
The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.
It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.
Take it away, Jurgen…
“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.
“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”
“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”
It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.
Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.
The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.
Take a look at the video below. Wow.