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The Boy From Brazil

Phil Scolari is exactly the sort of no-nonsense operator that Chelsea needs.

Tony Cascarino, 19 Jun 2008

After nine months of Avram Grant’s electrifying personality, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari should finally bring a bit of colour and excitement back to the Bridge. His CV is first-class, having won the World Cup and been a winner at every job he’s had. The only question mark is, he hasn’t yet managed a club in Europe, so that’ll be a new ball game for him and he’ll have to learn pretty fast. He’ll be pitting his wits against the best managers in the world, and I’m sure he’ll relish the challenge. It all looks good from the outside. He’s a lot of advantages, of course. He takes over a fantastic squad, and he’ll have a king’s ransom to buy players, so you don’t have to be Einstein to see why it’s a very attractive job. The only downside is, he’ll need to win trophies. Second place won’t do. Avram Grant finished second in almost every competition, and that wasn’t deemed good enough.

Big Phil got into a spot of bother a few years ago, when he said there was no way he would have a gay player on his team. He’s got a point. As a manager, you try to protect the group, and keep things harmonious. The fact is, many players would not like a gay player at the club. If you can imagine, players getting changed, taking baths and showers, knowing that a guy might fancy them – they’d feel uncomfortable. His comments might look outrageous from the outside, but most managers privately would say the exact same thing. The world has changed. I remember when I played, if a lad had dyed his hair blonde or had an earring, he would get wolf-whistles and all sorts of stick in the dressing room. Nowadays, you have David Beckham wearing his wife’s skirt in public. The world has moved on, but I still don’t think football has evolved to the point where you could have a gay player accepted in the dressing room.

Part of the reason Jose Mourinho left the Bridge was all the interference from above. Abramovich insisted on buying Shevchenko, which Mourinho wasn’t thrilled about, and there’s every chance Scolari will have to deal with the same sort of situations. There’s always pressure from upstairs at any big European club; as a manager, you just have to get on and deal with it. If your owner has put a large stake of money into the club, and he wants it run the way he wants, you have to abide by the rules. But the Real Madrid model shows what can go wrong when there’s no stability at a club, they keep chopping and changing and the manager gets changed every few months. That, for me, is the model of how not to run a football club, and it’s starting to happen in England, with Man City being the most obvious example.

They’re looking to get in Ronaldinho, which doesn’t strike me as a good move. He would be extremely expensive, and he’s not the player he was. You’d question his heart and desire, and I can’t imagine Mark Hughes tolerating a player who wasn’t committed to working his socks off and training hard. The problem with Ronaldinho is, he seems to enjoy things off the field far more than on it, for the last couple of years anyway. I think he’d be a very dangerous signing, a liability. It’s one of those that would get the fans excited at first, but after six months they’d be happy to pay his fare home to Brazil. If City want to become a top club, they need players who will work hard and close people down – every winning football team has always done that. Hughesy knows that, and he showed all the hallmarks of a great manager at Blackburn on a shoestring budget. He made great signings on the cheap - Benny McCarthy, Santa Cruz, David Bentley – and he’ll have a bigger budget now. I would hate to think that full control will be taken out of his hands by an over-ambitious, interfering chairman who starts telling him who to buy and sell. I hope he has total control over all football matters, and I’d like to think he made that clear before he took the job. The board have to trust him, and just back him with the finance he needs.

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