Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Luiz Felipe Scolari Will Be Chelsea's New Manager

Before I get to Scolari's appointment as Chelsea manager, I just want to announce that there will no Euro 2008 daily recaps for today's and tomorrow's action. I'm taking a five-week summer school class right now and had to record both games today and will do the same tomorrow because of my class schedule this week. By the time I watch all four games, the recaps will be outdated, and I don't want to waste my own time writing them or your time reading them when you can go to tons of other websites to find just about the same thing.

Now, onto today's big news.

Luiz Felipe Scolari, the current Portugal manager and World Cup winner as manager of Brazil in 2002, will take over the reins at Chelsea beginning July 1, two days after his contract with the Portuguese FA expires. Scolari has never managed a European club, much less one with a high profile like Chelsea, and speaks very little (if any) English, but Chelsea's Portuguese influence and the big bucks of owner Roman Abramovich were enough to convince Scolari to come to Stamford Bridge.

At 59 years of age, he's at a stage in his career where many big-name managers prefer to move from club to international soccer, which is less demanding and taxing on a daily basis. It is almost like their swan song into retirement. Scolari, though, now wants to do the opposite, and I think he wants to prove to himself and others that he can win major trophies at the club level before calling it quits.

This seems like a curious appointment from the standpoint of Abramovich and the other higher-ups at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho was often criticized for not playing attractive soccer despite the fact that he won early and often in his tenure at Chelsea, and his replacement, Avram Grant, also played a dull, cautious system that valued substance over style. Chelsea's fans and Abramovich, in particular, are well-known and on the record for wanting their team to score lots of goals and play beautifully while still winning.

Luiz Felipe Scolari is not a manager who employs an attacking, high-flying system. Granted, he is not the king of 1-0 victories like Mourinho, but he's still up there in the royal court. Like Al Davis, who is credited with this motto, Scolari is a "Just win, baby!" type of guy. He doesn't care how his teams win, and he'll use some of the most defensive, restrictive tactics to do so if the situation calls for it.

It's also unclear as to how Scolari will handle the massive press intrusion that comes with managing a club as big as Chelsea. Remember, Scolari basically turned down a chance to become England's head coach when he was offered the job in 2006 because he didn't want to deal with the media circus which surrounds that position. I'm not sure how much easier and how much more forgiving he'll find the press in London is; a name as big as his at a club as big as Chelsea with a team full of players with massive egos could have disaster written all over it.

Above all, Scolari is a winner. That should be enough to appease Chelsea's supporters and Abramovich, but if he doesn't win with style, he could find himself wanting to get out of town quickly. Scolari doesn't need the aggravation and pressure that could be heaped his way. It's his way or the highway, so we'll see how this plays out.

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