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Don't sign Ronaldo! Chelsea owner Boehly could ruin Potter project by taking on toxic superstar

09:00 GMT 19/11/2022
Cristiano Ronaldo Graham Potter Todd Boehly GFX
The Blues are reportedly back in for the wantaway Manchester United forward but his arrival would undermine the manager's plans.

The billions of dollars that line their pockets are not the only thing Roman Abramovich and Todd Boehly have in common.

From the moment the Russian oligarch had begun to syphon a portion of his vast fortune into Chelsea in 2003, he had sought a statement signing, the kind of a player who would draw a crowd and win games single-handedly.

The candidates changed with the times, as the west London club perhaps struggled to sell itself as a serious European contender in the early years.

Lionel Messi was an endless pipe dream, they came close with Kaka, while Neymar slipped through their fingertips.

Ironically, Chelsea would always flourish without that one standout superstar, thriving instead as the sum of their collective parts.

However, in 2012, after nine long years, they would strike gold when they signed Eden Hazard – an exciting young player who would realise his enormous potential at Stamford Bridge.

Like his predecessor, Boehly seems to want to mark the beginning of his stewardship with a truly marquee signing, one that would even eclipse the high-profile purchases of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The lust to make such a flex has contributed to Chelsea emerging as joint favourites to sign Man Utd antagonist Cristiano Ronaldo in January.

The Portuguese forward's Old Trafford exit now seems inevitable after an inexplicable and mightily inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan, where he took aim at his manager, the club owners and even team-mates – past and present.

Coincidentally, as the fallout from Ronaldo's most pointed of pointed words continues, Chelsea reportedly also find themselves at the front of the queue for Palmeiras prodigy Endrick, who is less than half the age of the former Real Madrid and Juventus star and will be eligible to move to Europe when he turns 18 in July 2024.

As such, Chelsea find themselves at something of a crossroads: if Boehly has his way, they take a monumental risk on an ageing, volatile superstar, or ride out this drawn-out period of transition and create a superstar in their own image in two years' time.

There are parallels between the Chelsea squad that Hazard became a part of in 2012 and the one Graham Potter has inherited a decade on, with a smattering of young talent unproven at the highest level and some ageing stars perhaps past their best, and a lack of clear identity or style despite very recently winning the Champions League.

In his already infamous interview with fellow big-mouth Morgan, Ronaldo has demonstrated (once again) that he has become unmanageable. It seems he will stop at nothing to ensure his individual pursuit of individual accolades will continue, wherever that may be.

As a brand he is now bigger than most clubs – and he knows it. Social media following is a decent metric of measurement in the modern era: Ronaldo has close to 500 million Instagram followers, Chelsea have 36 million.

Hazard has always been a more reluctant superstar, rarely craving the limelight and openly getting more joy out of a successful dribble or cute assist than robotically rattling in goals.

He was a team player, too, happy to be a functioning cog in the machine as Chelsea made gradual progress during his time there, claiming the Premier League title in 2015 and 2017.

While the Belgian never clashed – publicly or otherwise – with any of the seven managers he played under at Stamford Bridge through thick and thin, Ronaldo has made it crystal clear that he has no issue coming for his boss if things aren't going his way personally.

It's almost as though the 37-year-old requires a manager with a trophy cabinet to match his own if they want to command his approval.

Indeed, if he "doesn't respect"Erik ten Hag , who has won silverware with Ajax and gradually developed a reputation as an astute coach who plays an attractive brand of football, it feels highly unlikely that he will give Potter – a manager who cut his teeth in Sweden – the time of day.

Ten Hag, Potter and, to a certain extent, Tuchel are all coaches known for their man-management, and it speaks volumes that it was Boehly's desire to sign Ronaldo that became one of many bones of contention between the head coach and new owner.

The German evidently viewed Ronaldo's ego as one that would be beyond his control, likely provoking fears of a repeat of his experience with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in Paris.

It has been reported that, like his predecessor, Potter has no desire to manage Ronaldo either, and who can blame him after the chaos and exacerbated media attention generated by the Portuguese's behaviour in recent times and this week in particular?
Instead, the new head coach wants to build a dynamic team with young players at its heart – the antithesis of what an out-of-form, over-the-hill Ronaldo would bring to the table.

Patience will be key. If Potter can allay any pressure from Boehly and his new, glitzy hierarchy, the prospect of a season-and-a-half where he is given the time and space to implement his ideas on a young squad is hugely exciting.

Chelsea’s transition has been slow and painful at times, but with Potter now installed, supposedly with Boehly’s full backing, it is a process they must now see through.

Then, come July 2024, they may well find themselves with a setup that an exciting prospect like Endrick could slot seamlessly into and propel to the next level – just as Hazard a decade ago.

At the polar opposite end of his career to Ronaldo, the teenager's ego remains uninflated and his mind malleable.

In an interview with Sport earlier in 2022, he said: “I need to keep growing and progressing. I want the people to see who Endrick is, I want them to believe in me and my potential."

And Chelsea should do exactly that. Endrick is precisely the kind of player the Potter project should be built around: up-and-coming talents, rather than fading stars.