Scolari pays price for Premier League impatience
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If John Terry had remained upright for half a second more on a soggy Moscow night in May then Avram Grant would probably still be battling for honours on all fronts as Chelsea manager.
As it was, the England centre-half went flying and sent his penalty wide, minutes later Manchester United were crowned European champions and Chelsea’s wait to get their name on the trophy went on.
Grant was immediately sent packing.
His replacement, Luiz Felipe Scolari, was sacked on Monday after seven months as the impatience, some might call it breathtaking arrogance, of the modern game’s big clubs returned to the spotlight.
There is only one Champions League trophy and one domestic league for these mighty businesses to chase but when they are not secured, and sometimes even when they are, the reaction is often to rip it all up and start again with a new man.
When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and poured in funds previously unseen in the game, he expected an immediate return.
Claudio Ranieri could only reach the Champions League semi-finals so he obviously had to go.
Jose Mourinho delivered the League title, Chelsea’s first for 50 years, retained it and added other domestic silverware in the club’s most successful ever period but he too could not get beyond the last four in Europe.
Mourinho was a believer in building a team, rather than throwing together a collection of talented players, and that view appeared at odds with Abramovich, who hoped that buying in more big names would force the issue.
It did, as Mourinho, a proven managerial talent adored by the fans, left “by mutual consent”.
Grant was promoted from director of football to fill the hot seat but, displaying the world-weary demeanour of a man who expected every game to be his last, he was out after less than a season.
Chelsea then looked around for the biggest name they could get and, in World Cup-winner Scolari, thought they had found him.
The Brazilian, however, never seemed at home at Stamford Bridge and his struggles coincided with an apparent cooling of interest from Abramovich, who failed to spend the money the fans had hoped for to strengthen the team.
Chelsea remain very much in the hunt for the Champions League, where they face Ranieri’s Juventus in the last 16, and a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals looks likely after this week’s home game against Watford.
But in the last few months their aura, along with their long home unbeaten record, has disappeared. Chelsea were playing dull football, the fans were tearing their hair out and Scolari was not exactly a bundle of dynamism.
Being held to a goalless home draw by Hull City at the weekend proved the final straw and Scolari, before he had learned enough English to splutter “mutual consent”, was out.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, generally considered to have been one game away from the sack in 1990 after four barren years, must glance at Old Trafford’s sparkling trophy cabinet and wonder when everybody else is going to learn.
PHOTO: Luiz Felipe Scolari gestures during Chelsea’s Premier League match against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge, Jan. 17, 2009. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh