Tuesday 27 May ~
As widely expected, Avram Grant was sacked as Chelsea manager over the weekend. Despite losing only two Premier League games in his eight months in charge, Grant never became a popular figure at Stamford Bridge. Now it seems that his friendship with Roman Abramovich, which many believe got him the job in the first place, is under strain. Understood to be unhappy with the compensation package offered to him, Grant has employed Princess Diana's divorce lawyer Anthony Julius to get him a better deal – much to the pleasure of certain newspapers who are now able to feature the former Princess of Wales on their back pages as well as the front.
Yet things move rapidly at Chelsea and rumours about the club's next manager have already begun in earnest. The latest headlines are largely the creation of the candidate in question as Didier Deschamps claimed to be on Chelsea's shortlist. This isn't particularly surprising – since leaving Juventus, Deschamps has been keen to get back into management, allegedly even desperate enough to be interested in the Newcastle job when Sam Allardyce was sacked.
But any prospective Chelsea manager would do well not to underestimate the different boardroom factions at the club, all hoping to influence Abramovich himself. So Peter Kenyon is said to favour a young British manager (possibly with Man Utd links) such as Mark Hughes, or the most unlikely name so far, Roy Keane. Yet Eugene Tenenbaum, described variously as Abramovich's “good cop”, “right hand man” or “closest associate”, apparently wants a Dutch coach, while Chelsea academy director Frank Arnesen is behind Frank Rijkaard's rumoured candidacy.
All this speculation, especially vigorous in the light of no home nation involvement in this summer's major football tournament, actually means very little. Chelsea employ a huge range of people to handle their public relations and in reality no one really knows anything – the final decision will come to down to Abramovich himself and Chelsea's owner is currently reported to be holidaying on one of his yachts. Having been frustrated by not winning the Champions League in his home city, Abramovich had to be seen to be doing something. He covets the Champions League trophy so a manager will be chosen with this in mind but, with many of Europe's bigger clubs renewing their squads, Chelsea may never get as good a chance to win this trophy as they had last week.
Whoever takes the Chelsea job will know Abramovich's reputation so they can't expect sympathy if their stay proves to be as short as Grant's. Ironically the latest name to be linked with that other great Premier League managerial soap opera at Manchester City is Avram Grant. At least he's used to a volatile employer.