Villas-Boas pays price of drinking from poisoned chalice

London: Andre Villas-Boas always knew he would have to be prolific in terms of results rather than words to keep the Chelsea manager`s job he was axed from on Sunday after less than nine months in charge.

Owner Roman Abramovich`s experiment to bring in an upcoming manager rather than the established names he had employed in the past failed for the same reason that proved the undoing of the Russian`s other six appointments.

Trophies are the currency the west London club deal in and with Chelsea way off the Premier League pace in fifth and facing an imminent Champions League exit, the sacking many had forecast finally happened following a seventh league defeat on Saturday.

"When you come to Chelsea, you know one thing that you need (is) to bring results and show that the team is going the right way," Avram Grant, dismissed by Chelsea in 2008 after taking them to the Champions League final said.

"It`s all about results ... The results were not so good and the football was not so good - I (would) always like that there (was) more patience but we could expect this, no?"

When he was appointed last June, Villas-Boas was tasked with bringing "greater successes in major domestic and European competitions" to the club, who showed him the door saying "the results and performances of the team have not been good enough".

With an earnest expression and ability to articulate his thoughts in a second language better than his peers sometimes manage in their native tongue, the intelligence of the man known as "AVB" was never in doubt even if his authority was.

At 34 years old, the Portuguese was the youngest man managing in England`s top flight and reports of rifts with Stamford Bridge`s senior players who are around the same age as him have circulated for months.

Midfielder Frank Lampard has described his relationship with the Portguese as having "not been ideal", while newspapers reported last month that several players had questioned their manager`s tactics.

The surprising decision to leave the experienced trio of Lampard, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole on the bench for last month`s 3-1 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat at Napoli added further fuel to the speculation his days were numbered.

When Abramovich spent several days at the club`s training ground last month, the manager`s future looked even bleaker especially when Villas-Boas declared he did not require the full backing of his squad, only the support of the owner.

That support has finally gone at a time when the 2010 Premier League champions are in danger of not even qualifying for next season`s Champions League, the competition Abramovich is known to yearn for more than any other.

Chelsea have never failed to finish in the top four since the Russian billionaire bought the club in 2003 and have put former assistant Roberto di Matteo in charge on an interim basis to try to ensure that continues.

With Abramovich`s European ambitions described as an "obsession" by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, the Chelsea job was seen by many as something of a poisoned chalice when Villas-Boas took over.

The club had been attracted by the style and attacking flair Villas-Boas`s Porto showed on the way to their treble of Europa League, domestic league and cup last season when they took a chance on a bright young manager.

They paid a massive 13.3 million pounds to release him from his contract with the Portuguese club, hoping he could re-vamp their ageing squad and create an entertaining and successful team, but that show of faith was soon under scrutiny.

Like Carlo Ancelotti before him, Villas-Boas was unable to find a way to get the best out of British record signing Fernando Torres, while dropping senior players like Lampard was unpopular with fans and players.

Back-to-back home defeats in November made fans twitchy at a Stamford Bridge that had been a fortress for much of the Abramovich era and Villas-Boas`s traditional touchline pose with his hands in his pockets started to be accompanied by frowns.

There were highlights, included coming from behind to beat Premier League leaders Manchester City in December, but defeats by the likes of Everton led to supporters chanting for a return of self-styled `Special One` Mourinho.

Perhaps sensing his days were numbered, Villas-Boas acknowledged last week that Chelsea managers "in similar situations" had been dismissed and then did himself no favours by saying Manchester City had a better squad.

Chelsea will embark on their search for a replacement in the close season with Mourinho among the front-runners for a return to the club, where AVB now spells Another Vacancy at the Bridge.

Bureau Report

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