What Can Chelsea Expect From Scolari?

Two titles after 50 years of nothingness saw Jose Mourinho become our most successful and most loved manager ever and Grant’s temporary period in charge was never destined to bring anyone at Chelsea the same sort of euphoria we experienced under TSO. He may well have done better than many of us expected him to and in terms of Europe at least, did better than Mourinho, but entertaining, he wasn’t. That at least seems set to change with the appointment of Scolari, because however he matches up to those gone before him, life at Stamford Bridge should certainly liven up a bit now.

A bit of a loose cannon at times, prone to the odd outburst both verbally and physically, it could be an interesting, and much publicised time at Chelsea next season. If anything, the Brazilian is even less likely to give in to the demands placed on him from above than Mourinho was, so whether his appointment is a recipe for success or disaster remains to be seen.

He’s not nicknamed ‘Big Phil’ for nothing and the Chelsea players will very much feel his presence both in the dressing room and on the touchline. Be it his manic celebrations or almost psychotic-tempered rages on the sideline, he’s anything but subtle. Fiercely loyal to his players yet at the same time more than capable of keeping the larger egos in check, there’ll be no doubt who’s in charge in the forthcoming season.

But then let’s face it, taking over what has to be the most often vacated seat in football, demands a bigger personality than the predecessor could even hope to conjure up, not to mention a bigger desire to win, and Scolari certainly seems to have that. His hunger for success must have ticked the right box as far as Roman’s concerned anyway, along with his proven track record – albeit at international level. After leading Brazil to World Cup victory in 2002, he has gone on to take Portugal to the Euro 2004 final and the World Cup semis in 2006. He’s also had club success in Brazil, with Copa Libertadores victories for both Palmeiras and Gremio – who he also guided to a Brazilian title. But the fact remains, Scolari is yet to test himself on the European scene and ironic as it is, even Avram Grant can boast a better CV than ‘Big Phil’ on that score. Little wonder then that doubts are being raised as to how Scolari will adapt to daily life in the Premier League after so long on the international circuit.

Still, surely the football Scolari brings with him will be worth taking the risk? Well, surprisingly enough, his sides haven’t always played the kind of attractive football people often associate him with. Scolari has often been accused of adopting a physical style of play in the past, along with some undesirable gamesmanship. Notably, it was when he took over at Brazil that his reputation for the sexier game developed. But then how could it fail to with players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo at his disposal? So whilst Abramovich waits expectantly for the attractive football he craves to be delivered, I’ve no doubt the Brazilian will be putting in requests of his own – for the sort of players he’ll need to deliver it.

And deliver he must, if Roman’s previous level of patience is anything to go by. Having already terminated the contract of Chelsea’s most successful manager for failure to deliver the most coveted piece of silverware (amongst other things), he then dispensed with his old mate Grant after a mere nine months despite finals in both the Carling Cup and Champions League, and an admirable second place finish in the league to what can only be described as a bloody good United side.  

And what about the press coverage while all this going on because we all know how Roman felt about Mourinho’s antics where media coverage was concerned – will Scolari, who’s already had many a bust-up with reporters in his time, cope with the vultures around him 24/7? Having cited media intrusion as a reason to reject the England job, it begs the question of why Scolari would take on one of the most covered roles in football as far as the press are concerned. What planet was he on when Mourinho was in the spotlight on a daily basis, when even his dog had no privacy? And which particular beach did he have his head buried in when the search for Grant’s replacement was going on? Does he honestly think he’ll keep the hounds at bay with the odd expletive or two?

No doubt about it though, whether happy with his appointment or not, it still raises as many questions as his behaviour does eyebrows. And whether Chelsea or not, there’ll be as many for his appointment as against it, because let’s face it, who could resist the very idea of the volatile Scolari going up against the likes of Fergie, Wenger and Benitez?

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Scolari To Come Out Fighting Against Manchester United?

Whilst it’s fair to say Fergie and Mourinho had the odd war of words during TSO’s time at Chelsea, it never really amounted to more than a bit of tit-for-tat and publicly at least, they appeared to hold a grudging amount of respect for each other. The odd glass of wine shared after a game seemed to keep a lid on anything more sinsister erupting and upset Wenger into the bargain, which is always a bonus. No doubt about it though, Mourinho pushed his luck at times, not least of all with his below-the-belt digs at Ronaldo but for the most part, Fergie seemed to tolerate him with no more than the odd sneer.

This season though could see Fergie pushed to his limits when faced with a long-term adversary in the press every week. The centre of this discontent again being United’s Portuguese star, rumour has it both Fergie and Queiroz have found Scolari a giant sized pain in the rear as far as Ronaldo’s concerned. From Fergie’s point of view, he simply doesn’t trust Scolari to act in Ronaldo’s best interests and the club versus country dispute has raged on throughout Scolari’s time with Portugal, whilst from Queiroz’s he simply despises the Brazilian. So whereas Mourinho’s rants in the press were usually largely disregarded inside Old Trafford, Scolari’s appointment could see rivalry between the two clubs reach a whole new level.

The main bone of contention seemed to crop up when, back in November 2006, Scolari played Ronaldo in a European Championship qualifier against Kazakhstan – against United’s wishes. Now whilst I’m of the general opinion that as far as internationals are concerned, club manager’s ‘wishes’ shouldn’t come into it, it appears on this occasion Fergie may have had a point, with Ronaldo aggravating an ankle injury. Queiroz’s reaction to this was to suggest “Scolari behaves like one of those people you lend your car to when it has a full tank of gas and they use it all week, crash it and then leave it on a side street with no gas and aren’t even polite enough to tell you where they left it.”

So, even before Scolari was announced as the new Chelsea manager, those inside Old Trafford would’ve been less than impressed with him apparently stirring up the already frenzied media circus surrounding Ronaldo’s future. Scolari has publicly and privately, according to the press, been endorsing a move to Real Madrid for United’s top scorer last season, describing it as the “opportunity of a lifetime.” And given the fact Portugal look to be hanging around at the Euros for the foreseeable future, leaving Ronaldo to listen to Scolari’s advice for the same duration, it must be a very uncomfortable time inside Old Trafford right now.

And as if Scolari’s apparent interference prior to his Chelsea appointment wasn’t enough to get Fergie’s back up, the fact that they’ll now be in direct competition next season won’t do much to help potential conspiracy theories around Scolari’s motives. So, with or without Ronaldo, the battle at the top could get very bloody next season. Particularly when you take into account the Brazilian’s less than controlled way of handling disputes: “If someone talks about my private life, for example, I’ll give them a good punching. I’m not interested in suing. I like to sort things out my way” – or his pugilistic approach to protecting his own players: “He (Ivica Dragutinovic) was going to hit (Ricardo) Quaresma and I defended him.”

So, with there already being no love lost between the Fergie,  Queiroz  partnership and Scolari, add a petulant Wenger and the eternally bitter Benitez into the mix and it’s starting to look like a recipe for one of the most volatile title races to date.

Does Roman really think he’s going to get a quieter life?