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.
Well this is peak FIFA.
Football’s governing body has just awarded Leeds United and much-admired manager Marcelo Bielsa its FIFA Fair Play award at its 2019 The Best awards ceremony in Milan.
[ MORE: Klopp wins manager award ]
The reason the Whites won the award is understandable, if you just ignore the fact that they were publicly caught cheating months earlier… and that the “fair play” moment came after an extremely questionable play which led to a brawl.
The win comes for Bielsa’s decision in late April, when his player Mateusz Klich scored a goal despite Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija being injured on the pitch.
Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to tie the match after a post-goal fight saw a red card to Anwar El Ghazi.
Fair play? Sure, and Leeds kissed goodbye its slim hopes of finishing in automatic promotion place in the Championship.
However, Leeds was also caught monitoring Derby County training sessions, leading to Bielsa to admit in January that he had spied “all the rivals” that season.
I mean, who were the other nominees? Jose Callejon and the Turkish player who fouled players with a sharp object during play?
Bielsa admitted this during an extraordinary Powerpoint session for media members in England which showed the maniacal depths of his preparation, which curried a lot of favor with the media and fans.
Yes, even though he admitted Leeds cheated the whole season.
He also said, “I thought I wasn’t violating the norm,” which is ridiculous.
Now of course we should be too pious, either; A whole lot of teams cheat in this way and football is a cutthroat game. Bielsa is a managerial legend and loved by Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.
Jurgen Klopp has been named the top manager in the world for the past season at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony on Monday in Milan, Italy.
The UEFA Champions League-winning manager beat out Premier League winner Pep Guardiola of Manchester City and UCL finalist Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs.
[ WATCH: FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony ]
Klopp, of course, was magnanimous in victory.
“It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” Klopp said. “We know what an incredible job Mauricio Pochettino did and what Pep did.”
He thanked the owners and players of his club.
“To the owners thank you, they gave me an incredible team. I have to thank my team – as a coach you can only be as good as your team is. I’m really proud of being manager of such an incredible bunch of players. This is an individual prize, I don’t 100% understand individual prizes, I’m here for a lot of people.”
Good for Klopp.
FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony takes place in Milan, Italy on Tuesday as the top players and managers on the planet will be crowned.
The ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and you can watch it live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes (click on the link below).
WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE
Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo are the three nominees to be crowned the best male player on the planet.
USWNT duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are up for the top female award, as is England’s Lucy Bronze.
Outgoing USWNT head coach Jill Ellis is the favorite to land the award for the best coach in the women’s game, while Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are all among the candidates to be named the best managers in the men’s game.
Click on the link above to watch the glitzy ceremony from Milan as plenty of other awards, like the Puskas Award for the best goal scored in the world, will be dished out.
Matchweek 6 produced some stunning displays across the Premier League, with big wins, comebacks and late drama across plenty of games.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Players from Liverpool, Man City and Leicester City dominate our rankings, while the likes of West Ham and Bournemouth are also well represented. There are also plenty of new entries among our top 20.
Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!
Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.
1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – New entry
2. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Even
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 13
4. James Maddison (Leicester) – Up 16
5. Joel Matip (Liverpool) – New entry
6. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
7. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry
8. Steve Cook (Bournemouth) – New entry
9. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – New entry
10. Fernandinho (Man City) – New entry
11. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – New entry
12. Mark Noble (West Ham) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Even
14. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Down 10
15. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) – Even
16. Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth) – Up 3
17. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – New entry
18. Chris Wood (Burnley) – New entry
19. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry