Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Scolari leaves mess

Luiz Felipe Scolari
Luiz Felipe Scolari has been dismissed from his post as Chelsea manager

Roman's decision. That was the whispered truth about the demise of Luiz Felipe Scolari yesterday, a sacking sanctioned and delivered by the only voice at the club that really matters.

Roman Abramovich is the Moscow orphan who came to build a fortune of £11.7bn fortune, and yesterday was just a snapshot of the ruthlessness that took him there.

Abramovich had been in London since the middle of last week and he was at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to watch his £600m investment draw 0-0 at Hull City.

He could have waited until the end of the season and let Scolari play out the final four months in mediocrity, he could have began thinking about bailing out of English football for good.

Instead he turned up at the club's Cobham training ground yesterday and sacked Scolari personally.

When the dust settles on Scolari's sacking it may well come to be remembered as one of the most important days in the club's history if only because it demonstrated that Abramovich is still very much involved.

His refusal to sanction big transfer fees, his increasingly sporadic attendance at games and the stories about the size of his loss in the credit crunch have all pointed to an oligarch falling out of love with the game. In one move yesterday, he swept that aside by shaking the club up as only the owner can do.

Peter Kenyon, the club's chief executive, was not even in the

country when the decision was made. He was anticipating the club's financial results which are due out on Friday and had, he hoped, put Chelsea closer to that improbable target of breaking even by the end of the financial year that ends in 2010. Now, once again, he will be required to be justify the decisions of his master - just as he did in September of 2007 when Jose Mourinho was sacked.

How did it end up such a mess for Big Phil?

He was appointed on a warm summer's night in Geneva at the peak of his powers. Portugal had just qualified effortlessly for the knockout round of Euro 2008, Abramovich had slipped into town to watch the win over the Czechs and Scolari, the man of the moment, timed his post-match press conference to perfection.

As of Sunday, Chelsea were seven points off Manchester United who have a game in hand at the top of the Premier League. Their season was being carried by the familiar characters - primarily Frank Lampard - but even he could not do it alone.

The unbeaten home record in the league of 86 games built up between Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho and Grant was long gone.

The squad looked old, the bench on Saturday featured two unproven kids.

Compared to United and Liverpool, this team looked like yesterday's men.

And those were the problems that were obvious. Behind the scenes the feeling within the circle of senior players was that, decent bloke though he was, Scolari lacked the edge that might have been expected of a World Cup-winning coach.

Unfavourable comparisons were drawn with Mourinho when it came to training sessions which, senior players believed, lacked sharpness and the originality under Scolari.

Scolari had also persisted with Florent Malouda long after the rest of the squad believed that he should have been jettisoned.

He had sanctioned the sale of Wayne Bridge when the players believed that the England left-back could have done a better job than Malouda on the left side of midfield.

Didier Drogba had been left out the squad for two games then brought back in to no discernible effect.

In July, at the age of 59, Scolari had taken on his first job in European club management and on the training ground, it was said, looked very much like yesterday's man.

But for all his shortcomings, he had inherited a team badly lacking in soul.

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