Scolari the showman could outdo Mourinho
Scolari gave an impressive performance on Tuesday in his first news conference since taking the helm of the London club, speaking in excellent English and providing Chelsea’s fans with exactly the news they wanted to hear about Frank Lampard staying.
They also got a first taste of their new coach’s charisma. If Avram Grant cut a grey figure compared to his colourful, soundbite-friendly predecessor Jose Mourinho — aka ‘The Special One’ — nobody will be complaining about Scolari lacking personality.
Speaking with a twinkle in his eye, the Brazilian World Cup-winning coach said he was special only to his loved ones and a “so-so” coach.
For those who witnessed the wide range of facial expressions at his news conferences as Portugal manager, none of this would have come as a surprise. He may resemble the actor Gene Hackman but he is a showman in his own right, a great bear-like figure who needs little invitation to display his emotions.
When his players’ tempers were rising during the group-stage defeat by Switzerland at Euro 2008, he stood on the touchline like an angry schoolmaster, his index finger held to his mouth in a gesture telling them to stop their back chat to the referee.
Yet the big hug he gave injured Switzerland striker Alexander Frei on the same
evening showed his avuncular side too.
My favourite Scolari memory came from Portugal’s meeting with England at the
2006 World Cup.
He looked every inch the kindly uncle when, down at pitchside in Gelsenkirchen, he joked around with a group of English schoolchildren — posing for pictures, giving the thumbs-down to the Gerrard on the back of one boy’s England shirt, and even pulling the tail of tournament mascot Goleo the lion. This less than an hour before a World Cup game.
Chelsea players and fans alike should have little difficulty in warming to Scolari. It is easy to imagine opposition supporters getting their share of fun from having Big Phil around too.
PHOTO: Scolari gestures during a news conference at Cobham in southern England as he is unveiled as the new Chelsea manager. July 8. REUTERS/Toby Melville