By Greg Stobart
The writing was on the wall for Andre Villas-Boas the second he walked out of a brief but tetchy meeting with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and technical director Franco Baldini following Sunday’s humiliating 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
Levy and Baldini turned to each other and knew that Villas-Boas’ time as Tottenham’s head coach was up, that he had lost the heart for the fight and the ideas to improve on disappointing league performances.
His relationship with the board had already deteriorated to the point where he was no longer expected to manage the north London club beyond the season - and this was the endgame.
After speaking to owner Joe Lewis and the rest of the board members, the decision was made. Levy met with Villas-Boas after the Portuguese arrived at the club’s state-of-the-art Enfield training base on Monday morning and dismissed the 36-year-old.
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They were not interfering in first-team decisions, they simply wanted to know how Villas-Boas planned to put it right. And they didn't get the answers they were looking for.
The former Chelsea manager had been controversially appointed in 2012 to replace Harry Redknapp, promising to take Spurs to the next level with his attention to detail, player knowledge and tactical preparation.
Villas-Boas seemed like the chief executive’s dream, but the reality was different.
He certainly had his strengths, and he leaves the club with the highest win percentage of any manager this century having achieved a record points total last season, in no small part down to the heroics of Gareth Bale, who improved dramatically under Villas-Boas' guidance.
But even early on in his tenure, there was a sense that Villas-Boas might have hoodwinked a few people at White Hart Lane.
For example, he took the job in the full understanding of the club’s transfer committee system for trading players and the dual philosophy of finding undervalued players and promoting youth team products.
Yet in his first transfer meeting last year he instantly demanded more than €60m in order to recruit Joao Moutinho, Hulk and Anderson.
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Villas-Boas seemed to want the role of a traditional manager even though he knew full well he was taking the role of 'head coach', and only one of many voices when it came to transfer decisions.
Tim Sherwood, who has taken over as interim manager and will be given the role full-time if he impresses, played an important role in Villas-Boas’ appointment, but the pair fell out. Villas-Boas feared the technical co-ordinator's influence over Levy, believing him to be a training ground spy for the chairman.
Sherwood, for his part, simply felt that he was pointing out obvious disparities between Villas-Boas’ promises on his appointment and the reality; most notably his desire for expensive, top level players and his reluctance to blood younger players even in relatively meaningless Europa League fixtures.
The club spent more than €118m on several summer signings to replace Bale, whose €100m sale was supported by Villas-Boas given the enormity of the pricetag and the opportunity to build a squad to challenge for the title.
But as the likes of Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela struggled to impress and thoughts turned to the January transfer window, Villas-Boas' relationship with Baldini also deteriorated. They had enjoyed a strong relationship, and Baldini previously tried to appoint Villas-Boas as Roma boss, but by the time City embarrassed Spurs 6-0 in November, the head coach had lost another ally.
In the end, almost everywhere you looked at Spurs, there was someone with whom Villas-Boas had clashed.
The Portuguese can hardly be blamed for his fallout with Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who were both deeply disruptive influences at times, but his decision to completely ostracise them from the first-team squad increased the sense that he was fighting more battles than he could handle.
Villas-Boas was named head coach for a reason - so he could focus on preparing the side.
He certainly took training seriously. He planned and led every session himself, leaving the likes of assistant manager Steffen Freund with little to do other than act as team cheerleader.
Complaints had been received from some players about the intensity and complexity of his training methods, but these were largely ignored by the club’s executives, fully aware of the fickleness within the squad.
The problem was with the fruits of those training sessions. Humiliating defeats this season - 5-0 to Liverpool, 6-0 to City and 3-0 to West Ham - suggested he was failing to get his message across. So, too, did the lack of goals - just 15 from 16 Premier League fixtures - and aesthetically turgid performances. It was not the Tottenham way.
There were clashes within the club over the Hugo Lloris incident against Everton, when Villas-Boas insisted the Frenchman play on against the advice of the medical staff after being knocked unconscious.
He also managed to pick a fight with the fans as he complained about the lack of support from the crowd in the 1-0 win over Hull in October.
The problem for Villas-Boas was that there was always someone else at fault, and his intransigence on certain matters cost him good faith from many within the corridors at White Hart Lane.