Russian oligarch told to take heed of long-term strategies at the reigning La Liga and Premier League champions but believes Manchester City are already copying their neighbours
By Rob Stewart
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has come under attack from the League Managers’ Association over his hire-and-fire managerial policy at Stamford Bridge.
As Chelsea stand on the brink of elimination from the Champions League, the Russian billionaire has been criticised by LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson for sacking Andre Villas-Boas after less than nine months at the club.
“Clearly, it seems to me that Roman Abramovich is not aware of the difference between having a successful team and building a successful club,” Wilkinson told Goal.com.
“The evidence shows that the successful clubs – ones that have been constructed in a planned, long-term and strategic way and which have a vision of where they want to go and know how they want to get there.”
Wilkinson continued: “What happens is that the product of that is they continue to produce successful teams. The lesson is that if you want to be winning things then history shows that is the way that you have got to go.
“To see that you just have to look at two clubs at the moment – Manchester United who have been the most successful club in England over the last 15 years and Barcelona who have also enjoyed sustained success.”
Wilkinson, who guided Leeds United to the League Championship in 1992, called upon Abramovich to learn from long-term models at Barcelona, United and Arsenal.
“Manchester United have been built by [Sir] Alex Ferguson and those above him who have bought into his vision for the club,” Wilkinson added.
“Barcelona have been building a culture now and therefore a club for a decade. Pep Guardiola was brought up with that culture and when he was asked to become manager he built on it.
“Certainly managers who have the capacity to look long-term such as Ferguson and Guardiola and also Arsene Wenger also have an enormous amount to contribute to the development of a successful club.
“I don’t know Jose Mourinho inside-out but from the outside looking in it would seem that he had that capacity but clearly that wasn’t part of the deal at Chelsea and that is why he left.”
Wilkinson said Manchester City had taken a leaf out of United’s book despite massive investment in new players from the Abu Dhabi royal family.
“Bringing in good players into the building is only part of the solution,” Wilkinson said. “If you want continuous success, those good players have to be brought into a building that clearly has a long-term and that clearly has a vision where it is heading and how it is going to get there and those players have to buy into that.
“I don’t know for certain and we will see but Manchester City seem to be getting their head around that one. The way they have been going about their business would indicate that the strong people within that football club and the leaders within that football club understand that and they know that is the biggest solution to any problems that come along.
“There seems to be a conviction at Manchester City that the club grows and stands for something and that the club then becomes bigger than any individuals within it and individuals have to go along with the direction that the club has decided it is going to travel along.
“Somebody once said that copying successfully is genius. Everybody is looking to learn and if you can learn from your neighbours who has been there, seen it, done it, well you would be a fool not to follow their example.”
The former Football Association technical director also backed former Porto manager Villas-Boas to bounce back from his sacking.
“Andre Villas-Boas will recover from his experience at Chelsea and he will probably be a stronger and better manager for it,” Wilkinson said.
“He was just one pawn in the story that is Chelsea Football Club. But there are a lot more managers who have been treated worse than him and there are a lot of managers who are in a lot worse position than him and they work just as hard.
“When we enter management we know for sure that setbacks are a certainty. He is one victim in all this but the biggest victim is the football club and those genuine Chelsea supporters who have more than just a passing fancy in a winning team.”