Leading article: Cruelly discarded

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The Independent Online

Runners-up in the Champions' League, runners-up in the Premier League. There was a time when a football club that could boast of such a season would be hailing its manager's achievements. The fans might have disappointment to swallow, but would surely still regard the man in charge as a success rather than a failure.

If events at Chelsea Football Club over the weekend are anything to go by, those days are gone. Avram Grant's reward for coaching his team to within a John Terry slip of pipping Manchester United to the European Cup, and pushing them all the way in the domestic league, was to receive his marching orders from the club's owner, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

With an estimated wealth of £12bn, Mr Abramovich can obviously do what he wants, and Chelsea fans are only too delighted that enough money has poured into the club to turn it into a major European power. But somewhere in all this, a sense of proportion has been lost.

Does it really need pointing out to Mr Abramovich that only one team can finish top, and that it won't necessarily be his, whatever the degree to which he bankrolls it? True, Grant's predecessor, Jose Mourinho, guided Chelsea to two Premier League titles, but he never got them further than the semi-finals of the Champions' League.

Without much backing from the fans, Grant was probably doomed from the moment he took over from Mourinho last September, and now there is talk of the Portuguese "Special One" returning to Stamford Bridge for a second spell.

It's not just a funny old game, it's a decadent one.

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