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Old 15th January 2007, 10:04   #1
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Default 'Special One' has suffered a power cut

'Special One' has suffered a power cut
Matt Hughes
Times January 15, 2007

For a club accused of buying success, Chelsea’s record in the transfer market is decidedly patchy, which is what all the fuss is about. Having spent £110 million on new players in the space of six weeks after buying the club, including such unmitigated disasters as Adrian Mutu and Juan Sebastián Verón, it is little surprise that Roman Abramovich undertook a review of transfer policy, a process that is continuing 3½ years later. The fortunes of those seeking to influence the owner have ebbed and flowed ever since, like the changing tides.

Chelsea are unusual in lacking a visible leadership structure with a clearly defined delineation of responsibility, although they are hardly a normal football club in any sense. With huge sums of money — and not inconsiderable egos — populating this vacuum, conflict is inevitable, as has been illustrated by the infighting of recent weeks.

Rather than a Roman Empire, Abramovich appears to run his club along the lines of a medieval court, with conflicting courtiers petitioning him for influence in the various areas of his kingdom. As in the Middle Ages, the in-crowd changes over time according to monarchical whim, all the more so when there is no prospect of any challenge to the ruler’s authority. A personal fortune of $19.5 billion (about £10 billion) provides a better insurance policy than even the Divine Right of Kings.

José Mourinho, who usually doffs his feathered cap to no one, has been angered at not being treated as the “Special One”, although he is not the first and will not be the last to feel such frustration. The truth of the matter is that the manager has never dictated transfer policy at Abramovich’s Chelsea, with Claudio Ranieri reputedly confessing never to have heard of Glen Johnson when he was presented as the Russian’s first signing in July 2003.

The bulk of that first tranche of ten signings was orchestrated by Pini Zahavi, with a view to Sven-Göran Eriksson replacing Ranieri at the end of the season, which serves to show how times change. Although the Israeli agent retains the ear of Abramovich, the last deal he was intimately involved with was the initial, ill-fated attempt to sign Ashley Cole from Arsenal two years ago. At the moment, Zahavi is encouraging Chelsea to move for another Israeli, Tal Ben Haim, the Bolton Wanderers defender, with Abramovich’s response in the coming weeks providing a good indication of his level of influence.

While Abramovich’s faith in longstanding business confidants, such as Eugene Tenenbaum and Eugene Shvidler, is sacrosanct, the evidence of the past three years suggests that he is unduly influenced by the new kid on the block. After Zahavi’s initial summer shopping spree, Peter Kenyon was given unfettered control in the wake of his arrival from Manchester United the next winter, immediately masterminding the signing of Arjen Robben from PSV Eindhoven.

Mourinho’s requests were also granted when he arrived in the summer of 2004, bringing in Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Tiago from Portugal with the aid of Jorges Mendes, the Portuguese agent, while both he and Kenyon approved the signing of Didier Drogba for what was then a club-record £24.4 million. The pair have had their differences, with Kenyon proposing a commercially inspired move for David Beckham 12 months ago that Mourinho rejected, before they compromised on Michael Ballack, another global superstar tied to adidas, whom the manager felt would serve the team better.

In the past two years, the waters underneath Stamford Bridge appear to have become muddied, however, with Mourinho’s camp identifying the poaching of Frank Arnesen from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2005 as the turning point. Mourinho opposed Arnesen’s arrival — understood to have been on the advice of Piet de Visser, a Dutch scout close to Abramovich — and has been suspicious since, keeping him away from the first team.

Although Arnesen’s main focus is youth development, they have clashed over players, with Mourinho overruling his suggestion to recall Alex, a Brazilian defender on loan at PSV Eindhoven, last summer and instead signing Khalid Boulahrouz from SV Hamburg. Alex has also been touted as the answer to Chelsea’s defensive problems this month, with Mourinho having none of it.

As well as fighting off Arnesen, Mourinho has also had to contend with increased involvement from Abramovich and his aides, leading to complaints at the training ground of a Dutch-Russian clique. Abramovich has always had the final say, but has begun to take a greater interest in identifying players, shown by the signing of Andriy Shevchenko.

Mourinho’s treatment of the Ukraine striker has caused huge problems and it is believed to have led Shvidler to propose the recruitment of Avram Grant, Portsmouth’s director of football, to work with him. The former Israel coach is close to both Abramovich and Zahavi, but will not be working with Shevchenko in the near future, as Mourinho vetoed the idea.

With the Portuguese still pushing for new players, an uneasy truce between the various factions is the best that can be hoped for. Abramovich is understood to have been unimpressed by Mourinho’s signings in the past two midwinter transfer windows, Jiri Jarosik and Maniche, and is reluctant to sanction further spending, particularly for a manager whose future is a doubt.

With his power base seemingly built on sand, Mourinho is in danger of being lost at sea.

The court of King Roman

Roman Abramovich
Position: Owner
Power: Total
Agenda: To make Chelsea the biggest and best club in world (and himself untouchable)

Board of directors - Different roles, little sign of tension between them

Peter Kenyon (English)
Position: Chief executive
Closeness: Abramovich's first executive appointment, but hired help nevertheless. 7/10
Agenda: Keeping the whole project together as the crucial interface between Abramovich and Mourinho
Power: In charge of the day-to-day running of the club and executing much of transfer policy 8

Bruce Buck (American)
Position: Chairman
Closeness: Abramovich's lawyer and a long-term ally, will be around for as long as the owner. 8
Agenda: Given Kenyon's image problems often presented as the acceptable face of corporate Chelsea.
Power: Abramovich¹s representative on the Board and directs much of the club's strategy 8

Eugene Tenenbaum (Canadian)
Position: Director
Closeness: As the man in charge of Abramovich¹s finances his closest confidant at the club. 9
Agenda: Ensuring the Board do Abramovich¹s bidding.
Power: Stays out of routine matters but a trusted source of advice 9

Management team - An incredibly tight unit, as shown by their united aggression on the bench

Jose Mourinho (Portuguese)
Position: Manager
Closeness: A professional relationship has deteriorated and stands at an all-time low. 5
Agenda: To win trophies for the club and further his own career
Power: Absolute of playing matters, but feels increasingly marginalised in the transfer market 6

Steve Clarke (Scottish) and Baltemar Brito (Brazilian)
Position: Assistant managers
Closeness: Little contact with Abramovich beyond occasional pleasantries. 2
Agenda: To support Mourinho in any way they can
Power: Valued aides on the training ground but little influence over transfers 3

Middle-men - Both rivals and allies, get on very well

Jorges Mendes (Portuguese)
Position: Mourinho's agent
Closeness: Was effectively Chelsea's buying agent for two years, but no real personal relationship with Abramovich. 4
Agenda: Protecting Mourinho's interests, including possibly finding him a new job
Power: Has diminished along with that of Mourinho, his great champion and friend 4

Pini Zahavi (Israeli)
Position: Agent
Closeness: Abramovich's deal-maker when he bought the club four years ago, but not as close as once was. 6
Power: Used to get deals done rather than a source of advice, as in the past
Agenda: Oiling the wheels of the transfer market and keeping everybody happy, not least himself 6

Scouting and youth development - Increasingly powerful alliance since Kaiser arrived last summer

Frank Arnesen (Danish)
Position: Head of scouting and youth development
Closeness: In less than two years appears to have convinced Abramovich that he has the best eye for talent. 7
Agenda: To recruit the best young players and extend his own influence.
Power: Has increased this season, much to the chagrin of Mourinho 6

Ruud Kaiser (Dutch)
Position: Youth-team manager
Closeness: Not really on Abramovich's radar but has changed the dynamics at the training ground. 2
Agenda: Seen as increasing the influence of the so-called Dutch-Russian clique, by the peeved Portuguese.
Power: Little direct influence but a crucial aid to Arnesen 3

Informal advisors - Have little contact with each other as move in different circles

Plet de Visser (Dutch)
Position: Transfer consultant
Closeness: Abramovich socially and a frequent visitor to his yacht, unlike Mourinho. 7
Agenda: Identifying the players Abramovich wants, or thinks he wants.
Power: Shown by the controversial recruitment of Frank Arnesen on his advice 7

Eugene Shvidler (Russian)
Position: Oldest friend
Closeness: Has known Abramovich for decades and knows him better than anyone. 10
Agenda: Enjoying himself at Stamford Bridge and a big proponent of more entertaining football.
Power: No official involvement but has his friend's ear, chipping in when it suits him 5,00.html
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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