£33m: Blues count cost as AVB gets the bullet

Villas-Boas becomes sixth Chelsea manager to be axed in Abramovich era, after eight months

CHELSEA finally lost patience with manager Andre Villas-Boas yesterday, bring to an end an eight-month tenure that cost the club around £33m.

Villas-Boas was sacked hours after Saturday’s defeat at West Brom delivered another blow to their hopes of returning to the top four and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Assistant Roberto di Matteo (inset) has been placed in charge for the rest of the season, but the Blues are thought to want Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola or Stamford Bridge hero Jose Mourinho in the summer.

Chelsea had to pay £13.3m to prise Villas-Boas from Porto, where he won three trophies last season in his first full term at any club, in the summer. Weeks earlier the club had agreed to pay around £15m to terminate the contracts of Carlo Ancelotti and his staff after just two seasons in London.

Villas-Boas, 34, was eight months into a three-year contract worth £14m. Even paying up only the remainder of his first year would take the total cost of appointing him to around £33m.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has spent £64m in the last four years dispensing with a succession of managers who failed to achieve the desired standard. Villas-Boas is the sixth to be fired since 2004.

The Blues face Birmingham in an FA Cup replay tomorrow, lie fifth in the Premier League and must overturn a 3-1 deficit in next week’s home leg against Napoli to stay in the Champions League.

Despite such a perilous position the sudden axing came as a shock. Villas-Boas took training yesterday morning and learned of his fate following an emergency board meeting.

Abramovich, director Eugene Tenenbaum, chief executive Ron Gourlay and technical director, Michael Emenalo subsequently addressed the squad and are understood to have made clear their dissatisfaction with recent performances on the pitch.

The club said in a statement: “Andre Villas-Boas has parted company with Chelsea Football Club today. The results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time.”

WHO’S NEXT?
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is preparing to embark on the task of recruiting his eighth manager since he assumed control of the club. Despite the pitfalls of the job, the Russian oligarch is likely to be able to pick from a list of stellar candidates.

PEP GUARDIOLA
Abramovich craves the Champions League above any other prize, so it is likely that the man who has won the tournament twice in the last three seasons is high on his wish list. Guardiola is yet to sign a contract extension with Barca but it is unlikely he’d leave at the end of a season that looks set to end in success for Real Madrid.
Probability rating: 2/5

JOSE MOURINHO
The Special One is keen on the idea of a return to the Premier League but his relationship with Abramovich – which broke down and contributed towards him leaving Stamford Bridge in September 2007 – would need to be rebuilt. Mourinho’s return would certainly be welcomed by the fans and the senior pros at Chelsea.
Probability rating: 4/5

MARCELO BIELSA
The experienced Argentine has impressed in his first season at Athletic Bilbao, guiding the club to the Copa del Rey final. He is known for employing tactics and systems as leftfield as his appointment would be.
Probability rating: 4/5

RAFAEL BENITEZ
Has Premier League experience and a Champions League title with Liverpool but his reputation took a battering at Inter Milan and hasn’t worked since. Hardly Mr Popular at Stamford Bridge, either.
Probability rating 1/5

HARRY REDKNAPP
If the Spurs manager is well thought of enough to be coveted by England then why not Chelsea? His appointment would have the double impact of improving morale at Chelsea as well as destabilising major rivals to boot.
Probability rating 3/5

ANALYSIS | AVB’S REIGN IN NUMBERS
WIN PERCENTAGE
It should come as little surprise that Villas-Boas was sacked after suffering the lowest win percentage of any manager since owner Roman Abramovich took over

COST OF HIS APPOINTMENT
Hiring AVB cost at least £4.67m in wages, £13.3m to release him from Porto and £14.7m to fire former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti

LENGTH OF TENURE
Villas-Boas lasted eight months and 11 days – a week longer than Avram Grant and a whole month more than Luiz Felipe Scolari

WHAT THEY SAID | STARS ON AVB’S SACKING
The news is not surprising to me really. When you are young you need time and obviously in this industry you don't get a lot of time unfortunately, so it is sad in a way.
Man United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson

I think in this case he was lacking a bit of experience but I'm sure he'll succeed at the end of the day because he knows football.
Former Chelsea manager, Avram Grant

Roberto Di Matteo has managed in the Premier League, he's been around quite a while and I would say it’s probably better Robbie takes over until the end of the season than somebody coming in until the end of the year. Robbie’s the right guy to do it, along with (first-team coach) Steve Holland, that would be the perfect match. We'll see where they go at the end of the season.
Former Chelsea assistant, Ray Wilkins

I have a lot of sympathy for him because that is a really, really talented coach we have lost in this country. He has had to take on a club there with a lot of influential senior pros and in the background probably had a very, very difficult job. I think he deserves a better turn than he has had.
Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew

Chelsea could not afford to keep faith and risk failing to finish in top four
COMMENT
FRANK DALLERES

IT might seem perverse given that hiring him cost Chelsea at least £33m just eight months ago, but the soundest reasons for sacking Andre Villas-Boas are grounded in cold financial logic.

A club that reported annual losses of almost £68m just last month can ill afford further financial hits, and the danger was that sticking with Villas-Boas could have ended up being even more costly than firing him.

Chelsea will have to settle with the Portuguese, who had more than two years to run on a three-year contract worth £14m a year; that is unavoidable, although it is not yet known what the final bill will be. In any case, however, the £28m spent on sacking his predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, and releasing Villas-Boas from his deal at Porto, has already gone.

The only way of offsetting that huge outlay was to ensure the club qualified for next season’s Champions League, a target that the club is currently on track to miss for the first time in the Roman Abramovich era.

Their most recent accounts show that Chelsea earned £39m from their participation in Europe’s top club competition last season in television income alone. Factor in matchday revenue and it is closer to £50m. With Financial Fair Play rules now forcing clubs to make only small losses or risk sanctions ranging from transfer embargoes to bans from European competitions, the Blues need that cash more than ever.

Failure to finish in the Premier League’s golden top four places would remove a colossal chunk of Chelsea’s £226m annual revenue and blow a huge hole in their hopes of meeting FFP requirements.

Firing Villas-Boas and hiring a replacement could yet cost another, albeit smaller, eight-figure sum, but it may prove money well spent if it results in the club securing their Champions League status.

Frank Dalleres is Sports Editor of City A.M.