Thursday 12 June ~
Big Phil Scolari's appointment as Chelsea manager was deemed important enough to be announced during the BBC's coverage of Switzerland v Turkey. Of course the news has some relevance to Euro 2008 as that is the competition Scolari is currently attempting to win. But the implication was plain – the European Championship helps to pass the time before the next English season starts, but viewers need to be informed about something that they will be really interested in. And quite right too. No one could fail to touched by the personal saga being played out at Chelsea. Has Roman Abramovich finally found the strong man of his dreams or will this turn out to be another bitter disappointment in his tireless quest for happiness?
Everything you could want to know about Scolari has been painstakingly detailed in today's press coverage. His favourite book is the sixth-century Art of War by Sun Tzu, which Express readers are told is “required reading matter for every successful warrior”. He is known as The Dictator and also the “master sergeant”. He has “been around the block”. He is passionate but not impetuous. He looks a bit like Gene Hackman, which will be godsend to headline writers if Chelsea draw a French team in the Champions League. According to the Mirror his brief is to make Chelsea into “the greatest team on the planet” by way of a “£100 million war chest”, which has expanded into “a bulging war chest” in the Sun, who also declare him to be “a big man in every way”.
For a fresh perspective on an important event, David Pleat and Clive Tyldesley are, as ever, the men to turn to. During his commentary on Portugal's Euro opener against Turkey, Pleat observed that Scolari had given a “very boring press conference” the previous day. Tyldesley agreed, adding that Scolari “likes to ramble”. That he didn't appear to understand a word of a question fired at him by Tyldesley during that press conference was offered as proof that he doesn't speak English. However, some of today's reports suggest that it's more a case of his English being “limited” – something that he may find useful in deflecting the now traditional “mind games” deployed in build-up to matches against Man Utd next season.
A season-long row between the clubs may be in the offing. As we know, not least because it's referred to every day in the TV coverage of Euro 2008, Man Utd's Champions League winning side may be about to be broken up. Scolari is already said to have advised Ronaldo to join Real Madrid. Should Ronaldo publicly announce that he wants to leave, Chelsea's new manager will be held partly to blame by at least one irate, red-faced pensioner in the north-west.