In the film The Godfather, there is a scene where a package is delivered to the Corleone household. Salvatore Tessio, a caporegime for the Corleone family, opens the package and reveals a fish wrapped in a bulletproof vest.
Santino Corleone asks “What the hell is this?”.
Peter Clemenza, another caporegime, answers: “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes”.
In a do-or-die round of 16 Champions League match played at Stamford Bridge against Italian opponents Napoli, Chelsea (led by certain senior players) delivered an emphatic message to former manager Andre Villas-Boas.
That message was clear and concise – when we want to play, we will play.
It was no coincidence that three of the four goals scored by Chelsea came from Didier Drogba (back to his imperious best), John “I bleed blue” Terry and Frank Lampard.
During his brief tenure at Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas attempted to impose his vision and his style on a group of players whom he inherited (effectively) from his countryman Jose Mourinho. The spine of that team consisting of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech have all tasted domestic success and have been tantalisingly close to Champions League glory. What Villas-Boas received in return was a series of poor performances and a squad of players who did not seem interested in playing football.
Similar to Roy Hodgson’s equally brief stint at Liverpool at the start of the 2010-11 season, the Chelsea players literally refused to play for their manager or apparently listen to his instructions. It is interesting to note that both under Dalglish and Di Matteo, the immediate results following the sacking of the manager saw improved performances and a definite increase in the level of hunger and competitiveness by the Liverpool and Chelsea players.
John Terry was asked during the pre-match interview before the Napoli game about his thoughts on Fabio Capello losing his job as England manager, to which Terry responded with a borderline eulogy on how fantastic Capello. “Fabio backed me,” he said. “That comes from a relationship with myself and him; the relationship we built up. I stood for him on the football pitch, and he stood up for me off the pitch. I respect that. I respect him as a man and for what he did for me. Complete respect. Both ways.”
Tellingly, Terry was not as gushing with his praise for Andre Villas-Boas. “Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t seem to buy a win [under Villas-Boas],” he said. “Then we change managers and we get two in a row. I don’t know why that happens.”
I sympathise with both Villas-Boas and Hodgson as I feel they both got a raw deal. However, as an owner I guess it is easier to get rid of one individual as opposed to a team of players and for Abramovich it is never personal, just business.
As Salvatore Tessio says to Tom Hagen just before he is sent away to be killed “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him”.