Why Andre Villas-Boas and Liverpool would be perfect for one another
Liverpool are currently a club in turmoil, in urgent need of a steady hand to steer the ship following the departure of Kenny Dalglish. Money has been spent but progress has not been made with the prospect of Champion’s League qualification looking more distant than ever.
Despite a significant investment in the transfer market Liverpool finished 19 points adrift of the position which would have secured them a lucrative spot among the European elite. The new owners must have been deeply dismayed to see £115 millions worth of new signings result in no improvement whatsoever to the side’s Premier League standing.
In Dalglish’s defence this figure was partly offset by the £75m or so he recouped in player sales, largely from the transfer to Chelsea of Fernando Torres, but an eighth place finish was never going to be sufficient to give the Liverpool legend any sort of job security. The axe fell abruptly once the season ended and now Fenway Sports Group, who acquired the club in 2010, are left mulling over the next move from their Boston base.
A new Director of Football is definitely on the agenda with Louis Van Gaal widely reported to be the leading candidate. If Liverpool are determined to stick to this structure then it will undoubtedly limit their options when it comes to recruiting a new manager, would Fabio Capello for instance, be willing to work under a man five years his junior?
With this continental style setup in place bringing in a manager at the beginning of his career makes much more sense and, at present, Andre Villas-Boas is the only outstanding candidate. Appointing Roberto Martinez, Paul Lambert or Brendan Rodgers would represent a massive gamble given the level of expectations at Anfield while Jürgen Klopp is highly unlikely to walk away from double winning Borussia Dortmund for a club which cannot even offer Champion’s League football at present.
There are several factors in Villas-Boas’ favour. His age and experience would, in theory at least, make it easier to work with a senior figure, he is not currently attached to any club so Liverpool wouldn’t need to pay compensation and, while the results at Chelsea were disappointing, his record in the transfer market was relatively impressive.
Having won the treble in his first season in charge of FC Porto, Chelsea were sufficiently impressed to splash out £13.3m for his services, an unprecedented sum for a manager. Villas-Boas’ spell in charge at Stamford Bridge did not enhance his managerial credentials but the experience will not have done him any harm either and he spent money wisely with Juan Mata, Raul Meireles and Gary Cahill all making an instant impact.
Comparisons of this nature can be disingenuous but the cost of these three signings is almost identical to the sum Dalglish splashed out on Sebastian Coates, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing and there is no question that the men Villas-Boas brought in for the money have, to date, been much more successful.
Henderson, Downing and Andy Carroll arrived at Anfield for a combined cost of £71m and collectively managed just six goals and five assists in the Premier League last season. It won’t have escaped the attention of the Liverpool owners that Newcastle were able to surge above their side by astutely acquiring European players at a fraction of the cost and acumen in the transfer market must be a priority when selecting Dalglish’s successor.
Villas-Boas made a net profit on transfers at FC Porto and won the Europa League, Portugese league and Portugese cup by making the most out the players already at his disposal rather than performing radical surgery on the starting 11. He also devised a system in which Falcao and Hulk were able to score 74 goals between them, how Liverpool would love it if a way could be found to utilize Luis Suarez alongside Carroll to the same sort of devastating effect.
Liverpool don’t have anyone in the existing squad who is going to command anything like the type of fee that Torres did and won’t sanction a spending spree as ambitious as the one Dalglish embarked upon. The emphasis will be on getting the best out of existing players such as Downing, Henderson and Carroll along with maybe one or two new additions.
At FC Porto Villas-Boas did a similar job in spectacular style but his disappointing spell in charge of Chelsea raised questions over his credibility when it comes to managing outside of Portugal. Most managers, with the notable exception of Jose Mourinho, endure the ignominy of failure at some stage or another and Villas Boas’ well publicized struggles at Stamford Bridge are not necessarily career defining.
It is also worth noting that those seven months or so at Chelsea give him more experience of managing a club in the upper echelons of the Premier League than any of the other current candidates believed to be under consideration for the Liverpool job. It is telling that the board there trusted his judgment sufficiently to back him in the January transfer window just prior to his dismissal with the result that Nicolas Anelka and Alex were taken off the wage bill while the consistently impressive Cahill came in.
Liverpool cannot afford to make the wrong appointment at this juncture and Villas-Boas’ managerial reputation hinges on the success of his next move. If he could salvage the sleeping Merseyside giant he would revitalize his reputation in the process but a second successive failure would leave his career in tatters.
A symbiotic relationship such as this might just be a recipe for the sort of success which has consistently eluded Liverpool in recent years. A year ago Villas Boas would have been well out of Liverpool’s reach but the difficulties that both parties have endured in the intervening months could make them perfect for one another.andre villas boas, chelsea, Liverpool
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