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.