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Premier League

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas claims ‘invisible’ Chelsea play without style

Spurs manager critical of former club putting success above all on eve of key game in Champions League race

Andre Villas-Boas has suggested that Chelsea chose success over developing a distinctive style when they sacked him in March last year, as the Tottenham Hotspur manager prepares to return to Stamford Bridge tomorrow night for a critical league game against his former club.

The 35-year-old was dismissed by Chelsea after a run of three wins in 12 league games, a decision that he said in the summer he considered to be a loss of nerve on the part of the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich. Yesterday he went further, saying that Chelsea had chosen to abandon his plans to change the team and that a club without a style would ultimately make them “invisible in football”.

Asked whether Chelsea continued to be in a state of confusion over which path to take in developing a playing style, Villas-Boas said: “It’s a little bit unfair for me to say that. In the end, it’s brought them success and sometimes success is what matters in football – independent of the style.

 “I have a different opinion [to them]. I think if you don’t have a style, it makes you invisible in football. Only teams with style succeed. But in the end, success normally is what matters in modern Europe.”

Asked to describe the style of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, a period during which Villas-Boas was the club’s opposition scout, the Spurs manager said they were “an absolutely deadly machine of football – but in a different way. Great, great counter-attacking football,” he added, “and one of the great teams in the country. There are various types of teams; teams built along great creative players and this Chelsea team has the ingredients to be able to play this type of football.”

Realistically, Spurs must beat third-placed Chelsea to stand a chance of finishing in the Champions League qualifying places. A win for Chelsea would as good as guarantee them a spot next season.

Villas-Boas was tasked with changing Chelsea's style from the Mourinho era into something resembling Barcelona when he succeeded Carlo Ancelotti in 2011. Asked about the difficulty of making changes to a team's style, Villas-Boas said it was “very, very difficult. Probably Barcelona with [Pep] Guardiola is the best team for playing football in recent years, in my opinion.”

There was, for the first time, an acknowledgement from Villas-Boas that he did not have the support of certain senior players during his nine months at Chelsea. He was asked whether it was right that Frank Lampard, whom he left out the team regularly, had been one of those. “Yeah, but his ability and quality was never in doubt,” Villas-Boas said.

“But that does not really matter right now. There have been other managers in this position before and in the end you study what you have done and become better and adapt. Only by learning from experiences are you able to deal with them better the next time.”

Rafa Benitez, at his press conference, dropped the biggest hint yet that Jose Mourinho would return to Chelsea this summer. “You know that next year there will be another manager,” he said. “That is clear. I think everybody knows who will be here. I will just concentrate on my job now.”

Asked later whether he would speak to his successor, Benitez replied: “Good question. You think that he will ask me? That's something you have to ask to the new manager.”

Earlier, John Terry had said that he often exchanged texts with Mourinho and had done so after his former manager had issued his plea to return to English football in the aftermath of Real Madrid's Champions League elimination. Terry said: “It is difficult to go into but the fans have shown he is a man they love, above all for what he won, and for pushing the club in a direction it had never gone in before. He is still the Special One.”