Wednesday 24 January 2018

Villas-Boas the pocket Caesar must stop claiming infamy

Oliver Brown

Perhaps the persecution complex is a phenomenon peculiar to Portuguese managers. Jose Mourinho, by his perception of enemies in everybody from Pep Guardiola to the Barcelona groundsman, elevates mania de perseguicao to the realms of theatrical art.

Andre Villas-Boas appears to have learned the same repertoire from his mentor. By his bizarre assertion on Tuesday night that Chelsea were the "most persecuted club in the country," he could scarcely have looked more paranoid than if he had told the Stamford Bridge press room, in his best mock-Caesar squeal: "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!"

Villas-Boas is easily caricatured as a pocket Caesar: brilliant, vastly ambitious, and preposterously young to have assumed so grand a leadership role. The outburst that followed victory over Valencia was also wholly consistent with the chippiness he has betrayed so far at Chelsea.

Whether in lashing out at Alan Hansen, bristling at any mention of Frank Lampard's demotion, or mounting ever more fanciful defences of Fernando Torres, he has regarded even legitimate criticism as a personal slight.

But the latest fit of pique was his most misguided yet. For a start, Villas-Boas reflected his profession's typical mangling of the concept of what it means to be "persecuted."

This highly-charged word should be limited to questions of political or religious belief; it should emphatically not be employed in reference to disagreements about Didier Drogba. And more unwisely, he risked alienating the stock of goodwill among commentators eager to see him succeed.

"Some of the criticism is out of this world," he said. "It is unfortunate for you guys, because you have to report on a brilliant win for Chelsea. This must be difficult for you all to do."

The stratagem that these words implied was quintessential Mourinho. Turn your foes against you and your squad will become stronger and more united.

The shadow of Mourinho lurks at every turn. It has been the lot of every subsequent Chelsea manager to seek in vain to emulate him, although Villas-Boas, both by his Portuguese lineage and his self-image as some kind of genius renegade, feels it more than most.

Last month's defeat to Liverpool, the second in a row at home, was a particular low point: a moment when fans went misty-eyed at the recollection of Mourinho's exploits.

In 60 league matches at Stamford Bridge, the Special One's record read: P60 W46 D14 L0.

Still, Villas-Boas knew what he was signing up for as favourite at the court of Roman Abramovich. He was joining a club whose expectations had grown at warp speed thanks to Mourinho's back-to-back titles, and whose owner had established the winning of the Champions League as the bare minimum for not being fired.

"We have been continually chased by everybody. We have become your target," he added.

That is the price you pay, Andre, when you take custody of an easily-bored billionaire's pet project. For our sake, and for your own sanity, deal with it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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