Those of you familiar with the works of the brilliant journalist/broadcaster Guillem Balague may well also be familiar with his much publicised theories on the politics of top European football clubs. In particular, his theories on what it is about their policies that allows them to have continued success.
In Britain there is a seeming reluctance to look past Alex Ferguson’s tenure at Manchester Utd as the idyllic scenario for every football club, everywhere in the world. We regard the concept of stability in the coaching set up, as vital to any amount of success over a prolonged period of time. But when we look across Europe we see multiple examples of this not being the case. Real Madrid have had 26 managers in as many years, over a period which has seen them win 11 league titles and 3 European Cups. Bayern Munich have had 18 managers in 29 years, during which time their dominance in German football has remained comparatively unchallenged. Also Olympique Lyonnais have won 7 league titles in recent years under 5 different coaches. These numbers conclusively prove that continuity in coaching personnel is not a pre-requisite for sustained achievement.
With all this in mind, there can be no dispute that Ferguson is the exception to the rule. His achievements will go down as a remarkable anomaly in the history books. A remarkable anomaly only a fool would seriously try to emulate. This is basically the idea that Balague puts across in his analysis of how a successful club operates.
So then, why is it these clubs continue to thrive, whilst our lack of managerial stability is resulting in a slow and depressingly steady decline? For me the answer is obvious. Madrid may not have the most financially shrewd of Presidents in Florentino Perez, but at the same time he is surrounded by a surfeit of great footballing minds, men with incredible knowledge and experience to advise him on every decision he needs to make. A surfeit of great minds, not least of which belongs to club legend, Zinedine Zidane. There is an almost identical situation at Bayern with Uli Hoeness and Franz Beckenbauer, likewise at Lyon with Aulas and Bernard Lacombe.
The luxury of this level of professional counsel regarding matters of football however, seems to have been one of the few privileges our owner has never afforded. He remains nothing more really than a very generous fan, happy to give his managers almost complete control, tasking them with building a legendary footballing empire, pretty much single-handedly.
Here lies the crux of the issue with Chelsea. We invest so much faith in our managers and create such high expectations, that when they fail, as they inevitably will, it means a long, arduous, bitter and embarrassing journey back to square one for the fan base and the squad. It of course means a similar retreat for our directors, back to the drawing board, so they can attempt to hatch another full-proof 10 year scheme. This happens of course while Real Madrid and Bayern simply have to find another figurehead, whose job it will be to implement values and continue with traditions that have existed years prior to their appointment and will continue to exist for years after their departure.
So what do we need to do? Of course right now we are pretty much at square one. Roberto Di Matteo is doing a fantastic job salvaging our season, but at the minute, a calming influence to steady the ship is all that he represents. We obviously need a new plan – a new set of directives and principles by which we can evolve and improve over the next ten years.
Crucially though, we need someone to enforce these ideas and in my opinion, we can’t be looking to another young and inexperienced manager. (I was and remain a huge fan of Andre Villas-Boas but his appointment was in hindsight a completely unjustifiable risk) These principles need to be drawn up and enforced by what we’ve been missing for too many years, an outstanding Director of Football. Like Real Madrid have Zidane and Bayern have Beckenbauer, we need someone that will give our club clear objectives and tell them explicitly how to achieve them, regardless of whom the present manager is. Obviously, this is no original idea. Successful businesses all over the world are run by men in boardrooms who set the tone for whoever is MD at the current time, to uphold and represent. They aren’t run by corporate suits like Bruce Buck and Ron Gourlay, who only seem bothered with the promotion of the company as a brand, and who are more than happy to dump incredulous amounts of pressure and responsibility onto a man who has the world watching and demanding results in virtually no time at all. To be honest it’s a minor miracle Abramovich’s administration has only seen the eight managers it has – with no knowledgeable support or guidance from up top, none of them ever really stood a chance.
So what I want to see from Chelsea this summer, significantly more than any world-class signing, is the appointment of at least one new member to the technical staff – someone to give our clueless board some much needed direction.
Possible candidates: Certainly Txiki Begiristain, the former Barcelona director who has been linked with us in the past, he could work wonders with our already extremely promising youth set up. Also what about Gianfranco Zola? Some fans have been calling for him to join our technical staff for months now, I have no doubt he could provide some invaluable contributions.
I’d say that pretty much sums up my stance on Chelsea at the minute and my wishes for this summer. This was my debut article for BlueChampions; I hope you all enjoyed it. I am planning to contribute a fair amount to this blog over the next few months, so please; any feedback/criticism of this piece would be very welcome.