Pete Jenson: Real-politik of Roman mirrors the galactico era

Abramovich's tenure is reminiscent of the worst excesses of Florentino Perez's years at Madrid

Pete Jenson
Tuesday 06 March 2012 01:00
Roman Abramovich appears to have learnt few lessons from Real
Roman Abramovich appears to have learnt few lessons from Real

Somewhere in the library of Roman Abramovich's moat-encircled fort there must surely be a well-thumbed copy of "How to run a football club" by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

The hiring and firing of coaches, the senseless sacking of successful managers, the concessions to player power and the overspending on big names already in decline – it's all there in black and white. No Premier League owner has ever come as close to emulating the hugely expensive and often unsuccessful Real Madrid model as Abramovich.

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers' Association, has lamented Chelsea's embarrassing search for an eighth manager in nine years but that looks like long-termism alongside Perez's efforts from 2003 to 2006 when he hired and fired six in three trophyless years.

Among Perez and Abramovich's managerial victims is the same mixture of the distinguished but disrespected and the desperately out of their depth. Perez sacked wise old owl Vicente del Bosque weeks after he had won the league and one season after he had won the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti was Abramovich's Del Bosque – relieved of his duties one year after doing the domestic Double.

At Madrid goalkeeping coach Mariano Garcia Remon was promoted to first-team coach for three months in the 2004-05 season and youth team boss Juan Lopez Caro lasted six months in the 2005-06 campaign. Neither man was carried by the dressing room in quite the same way as the equally under-prepared Avram Grant was in 2008 and Roberto Di Matteo will hope to be now.

Neither is there any continuity in managerial style at either club. Just as Chelsea have lurched from the conservative Ancelotti to new-age Andre Villas-Boas so Perez skipped from the sergeant major-style Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho to the laid-back Brazilian Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

What the coaches do have in common is that none of them has been more important than the players. Abramovich delivering an interpreter-assisted rollicking at Cobham after sacking Villas-Boas was reminiscent of Perez's rant after he quit as president in 2006, when he admitted to have been let down by the players he had indulged like "spoiled children".

Chelsea's transfer policy has also mirrored Madrid's. Abramovich's purchase of Fernando Torres was every bit a Perez-style whim. Never mind if when the deal is finally in place the player has long since ceased to be worth the money being asked for him.

Targeting out-of-reach managers is another parallel. Perez has twice attempted to persuade Arsène Wenger to take over at the Bernabeu – the Frenchman known for his patient development of young teams courted by the president famed for demanding success yesterday.

Abramovich's pursuit of Pep Guardiola smacks of Perez trying to tempt Wenger. The Barcelona manager is in the last year of his contract and would not cost the £13.3m Chelsea paid to Porto to get Villas-Boas last summer.

But he would need the kind of time Abramovich was unprepared to give his outgoing £4.5m-a-year manager.

What if the studious Guardiola, with neither his core of star players nor his reserve of well-schooled youth teamers, struggled to instantly adapt that wonderful Barcelona passing style to the Premier League and also slipped to 10 defeats in his first 40 games as Villas Boas did? And would there be a Michael Emenalo lurking in the background ready to tell tales on him? It took Jose Mourinho a year to get rid of Jorge Valdano – a far better-qualified interferer, but an interferer all the same.

Mourinho, of course, could be the final link between Perez and Abramovich. With so many of the same symptoms he might have decided that he needs to take the same medicine. Perez has given Mourinho complete power at Real Madrid and is reaping the rewards. Will Abramovich, as he so often does, follow suit?

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