Chelsea's £70million clear-out: the stars most at risk from the Villas-Boas axe revealed
Published 23:01 22/06/11 By Martin Lipton
He arrived as Mini Mourinho, aware the comparisons are inevitable and unavoidable.
Yet Andre Villas-Boas knows already that unless he is Mourinho-plus he will not be able to fulfil his Chelsea ambitions.
Just like the Special One, Villas-Boas proved he can talk for Portugal as he gave a wide-ranging analysis of his hopes and dreams for his second coming to Stamford Bridge.
But where Jose Mourinho was able to impose his will on a dressing room desperate for a charismatic leader who would sate their hunger for silverware, the new Chelsea manager inherits a very different squad.
A squad that has won three league titles in the past seven years, even if European glory has eluded them.
A squad which has aged, no longer young and desperate, but street-wise and perhaps street-weary, with a cast of heavyweights who have become used to their own importance and who could see a host of changes.
A squad at whose heart are the players who will remember him only as a peripheral part of the Mourinho era, whose image of Villas-Boas was shaped by the dossiers he brought with him to Cobham on Thursday mornings.
That is why he represents Roman Abramovich’s biggest gamble, why he must demonstrate from minute one of day one that he has what it takes to inspire, cajole, calculate and conduct. Matching Mourinho’s character will not be enough. He must surpass his former mentor, win the internal battles all over again, prove, without a scintilla of doubt, that he is a big fish and not managerial small fry.
“There is no way I can avoid comparison with Jose,” said Villas-Boas. “But I didn’t take the Porto job nor the Chelsea job because Jose made the same steps. They’re two of the most sought-after clubs in the world and in the end I had the opportunity and was able to make them find something in me that they thought would continue their route to success.
“Chelsea appointed me basically for my human qualities and that is what I want to bring into this club again.
“The most important thing is to motivate the players to get their ambitions right, to reflect again on what the club has achieved in the last six years and we need to keep this route to success.”
Mourinho’s route was to create a squad that proved too powerful for his successors. Avram Grant, Luis Felipe Scolari and even Carlo Ancelotti fell prey to the deadly double of dressing room gripes and an owner who does not accept failure.
Villas-Boas, part of the coterie around Mourinho that bridled against the boardroom barbs, knows he will have no more leeway than his predecessors.
“There isn’t going to be more or less tolerance for me if I’m not successful so this is the challenge I face,” he told Chelsea TV. “I feel confident we can motivate everybody, not only the players but also the structure. I feel confident I can respond to the ambitions of the fans and the ambitions of the owner and the administration.
“As a technical staff we focus a lot on unlocking potential. Everyone has a little bit more to give and in day-to-day life that’s how everyone progresses in their careers.
“We feel the players are the same. You have to stimulate them and motivate them to look for the things they didn’t try before, to give them freedom of choice as in the end when the players are on the pitch, they face different situations they must solve without the help of their manager.
“That is the kind of stimulus we want the players to have, responsibility and making decisions, because in the end the game is decided by those on the pitch.
“It’s a clashing together of two good organisations and in the end it’s the relationship between all of our players that can lead us to success, and that’s what I want to work on.”
The reality, as Villas-Boas does not need telling, is there is one constant bottom line at Stamford Bridge, and that winning alone is only enough in the short-term.
He added: “This is a club that has been used to being successful and we have to keep it that way and challenge ourselves to keep the habit to win and then win again the year after.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of players and it’s good to feel their expectations.
“It helps to face this new challenge in a more concentrated and focused way. We need to get the group back together and then go on from there and face every single game as a game we have to win and fight for it with our utmost desire.”
Villas-Boas was hailed by the club as “outstanding” but Scolari was also dubbed “the outstanding choice” in 2008 and Ancelotti “the outstanding candidate”.
The new man does not need to be told how swiftly things can change.
Welcome to Chelsea.
The Blues most at risk from the new regime - and what they could fetch on the open market
Frank Lampard (£5m)
Stalwart and dressing room linchpin but now 33 and cannot be confident of remaining an automatic starter. Needs to come back firing after last season's injury problems.
Didier Drogba (£10m)
Wants to stay but will look vulnerable if Villas-Boas brings Falcao with him from Porto, especially after Roman Abramovich spent £50million on Fernando Torres.
Nicolas Anelka (£5m)
Goals dried up last season with none in his last 11 appearances and at 32 he looks increasingly vulnerable. Problem in shifting him will be his salary demands.
Florent Malouda (£10m)
Claims that he has been told he is wanted but upper echelons at the Bridge felt he let them down big-time last term after a great start. Went missing at Old Trafford in Champions League defeat as well.
Michael Essien (£10m)
One of the pillars of Mourinho's side but never close to his best last term and appears more expendable than at any time since arrival from Lyons. Coveted by others but powers may be on the wane.
Salomon Kalou (£15m)
Never popular with the Stamford Bridge fans despite decent goal return rate and likely to drop further down the pecking order in the new regime.
John Obi Mikel (£15m)
Struggled to justify the £16m in "hush money" Chelsea paid Manchester United to secure his services. Hard to see him getting a game if Villas-Boas can sign Joao Moutinho.