Sunday 19 November 2017

Roman Abramovich preparing to guide Chelsea through choppy waters following Michael Emenalo departure

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Photo: PA
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Photo: PA

Matt Law

Roman Abramovich is taking a hands-on role in how Chelsea will replace Michael Emenalo and wants to be sure the club remain stable through their latest period of change.

The owner is in the unique position of having a close ally resign, rather than being sacked, and the Russian has held meetings with all his key staff on the matter.

Abramovich’s business interests around the world mean that he cannot oversee the day-to-day running of Chelsea, but he will be more heavily involved after Emenalo stood down as technical director.

That was demonstrated by his visit to the club’s Cobham training ground after the victory over Bournemouth, when Abramovich held discussions with Emenalo over his decision but failed to change his mind.

Abramovich has also spoken to directors Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum, and chairman Bruce Buck.

Emenalo had indicated in the summer that he wanted to leave, but Abramovich had hoped to change his mind and the club found out only a few days ago that the 52-year-old had decided that this international break would be the right time to go.

Chelsea had no immediate succession plan in place and Granovskaia and Buck have been put in charge of making sure Emenalo’s responsibilities are covered, with Granovskaia taking on a greater role. The prospect of Granovskaia keeping a number of Emenalo’s jobs has not been ruled out.

But Abramovich will ultimately decide whether he wants a straight replacement for Emenalo, who reported directly to him, or whether he changes or splits the role and has any new employees report to Granovskaia instead.

One man who is extremely close to Abramovich is Leonid Slutsky, the manager of Championship strugglers Hull City. He is said to be fully focused on turning Hull’s fortunes around, but were he to be sacked then there is every chance the 46-year-old could be offered some kind of role at Stamford Bridge.

Abramovich put Slutsky up in one of the Stamford Bridge hotels when the former Russia national team manager arrived in London to learn English and study football in this country. Slutsky was also allowed access to Cobham to watch Chelsea’s youth teams and was introduced to influential figures at English clubs.

Emenalo’s departure could also pave the way for Abramovich to try again to bring former striker Didier Drogba back to the club in some capacity.

Drogba joined Phoenix Rising as a player-owner earlier this year with the plan to move into a sporting director role once he hangs up his boots.

It is unclear whether he would be available to re-join Chelsea in the near future, but Drogba has made no secret of his desire to return eventually and he remains extremely close to Abramovich.

Other than deciding over how to best replace Emenalo, Abramovich wants to be confident that Chelsea maintain a stable environment for head coach Antonio Conte and his players.

Conte will report into Granovskaia, Tenenbaum and Buck, but will not yet face any questions of his handling of central defender David Luiz.

Luiz is due back in training with Conte on Wednesday afternoon and his axing for the Manchester United game is not being likened to the situation of Diego Costa.

Costa had asked to leave the club on at least three occasions before falling out with Conte, while Luiz was punished for poor form and questioning his manager’s approach.

What happens next for Luiz is entirely in his own hands. If he displays the right attitude and a willingness to fight for his place, then it is believed he will be given every opportunity to win his place back in Conte’s squad.

But Conte made it abundantly clear during a stormy meeting last week that any player who does not follow his path will be frozen out.

Telegraph.co.uk

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