If you are a football romantic, then Andre Villas Boas to Tottenham could end up being one of the potential feel good stories of the new season. If you are a skeptic, then every single sign says Villas Boas will crumble more than an England player during a penalty shoot out.
The former Chelsea and Porto manager certainly has a point to prove on his return to the Premier League. His failure at Chelsea leaves many unanswered questions about his overall ability to manage a team at that level. Many would argue winning the treble with Porto is easier than winning the Premier League with Chelsea. Either way, there is an evident gulf between the two leagues but surely people can respect winning the treble at any level is quite an achievement.
The biggest question about Villas Boas returning to the Premier League will be whether or not he has learned from his serial mistakes at Stamford Bridge. Can he man manage veteran players at a high level of the game? Does he have the ability to park his ego aside both tactically and with the UK media? Ego and arrogance can hurt anyone in life, but in sports, it can destroy an individual or team if it’s not projected in the right way.
What do I mean by that? Jose Mourinho is probably one of the most arrogant people in all of sports. But his arrogance also has a twist of tongue n’ cheek. It has a comedic value and element that makes him likable. Plus when you can back-up your arrogance with winning in every country you’ve ever managed, it makes it all the more acceptable doesn’t it?
Andre Villas Boas arrogance made him an immediate hate figure with the UK media. He didn’t endear himself to them. He wasn’t as smart as Mourinho in terms of winning them over. He came across as bitter, snobby, superior and bitchy most of the time. He believed he was above everyone and eventually, he paid the ultimate price for his immaturity and naivety during his brief spell in England.
Had Andre Villas Boas been winning on the pitch at Chelsea, nobody would have complained about his ego, arrogance, brash style or tactics. He probably would have been labeled as a no nonsense boss who takes a tough stance on players and doesn’t care who he enrages in the pursuit of winning. So was it more about the Chelsea players not responding to his style of football or his personality? Clearly the Porto team he led to a treble responded well to both. Just ask Hulk and Falcao about their experience at Porto and in particular, Falcao, who enjoyed an emphatic record-breaking season in front of goal playing for Villas Boas.
The Chelsea players didn’t see him the same way as people did at Porto. Relationships broke down early, results were poor and the team was inconsistent. Granted the 5-3 loss to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge was more about woeful defensive tactics than players not putting in the effort. However, the manner in which the Chelsea players performed away to West Brom last season was completely unprofessional. By then, the relationship between manager and players was toast and the players showed how they felt about Villas Boas on the pitch. It was without question one of the most unsavoury and deliberately negative performances of any top team during the 20 year history of the Premier League and Andre Villas Boas did nothing but help the players cause. He even put the final nail in his own coffin after the Champions League debacle in Napoli. Leaving veterans like Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard out gave the players more ammunition that this guy had no clue or idea what he was doing. There was no turning back.
Despite Villas Boas unsuccessful time at Chelsea he has been given the opportunity for redemption and he will have to earn it. The sports universe does love a comeback and if he leads Tottenham to glory, it will be an incredible story. If Villas Boas can learn from his rookie errors, he has the talent and belief to make a team successful. Like every other manager (other than Carlo Ancelotti), Villas Boas had to live in the shadow of Mourinho. He suffered more than any other manager from “Mourinho Syndrome” because he was Mourinho’s boy during the Special One’s time at Chelsea. Despite returning to the club as a man, people still saw him as whatever he was before. A bit like the Secretary who makes it as an Executive but many people still see her as a secretary. It’s hardly fair is it?
The good news for Spurs fans is that the White Hart Lane dressing room is not like the Stamford Bridge dressing room. Regardless, Andre Villas Boas does bring a stigma with him and he will still have to win over players like Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and future superstar Kyle Walker. Players talk. Players from opposing teams are mates. Tottenham players have read and heard a lot about what happened at Chelsea. Hopefully they will focus on Villas Boas success at Porto and not the tidal wave of disasters at Chelsea.
If there is one man whose neck is on the line even more so than Villas Boas if things don’t go well it’s Daniel Levy. The Tottenham Chairman has taken a huge risk with this appointment. Bringing in a younger manager with a tarnished reputation to follow in the footsteps of a hugely popular man like Harry Redknapp who changed Tottenham’s fortunes is more risky than investing in today’s stock market. Levy is willing to take his chances with Villas Boas in order to build Tottenham into a global brand. He will definitely have more patience than Roman Abramovich and perhaps he sees this as a very similar situation to when Chelsea initially drafted the Special One as their man.
It will be a fascinating situation to watch. Who isn’t already excited about Tottenham v Chelsea next season? Something tells me Andre Villas Boas will have success down the Lane and that this time around, lightning won’t strike twice…