Sheva and Abramovich: Owner and player should not be friends

Jose Mourinho is proving the Bear Bryant adage ” Winning isn’t everything but it beats anything that comes in second” applies directly in his case. Chelsea trails Man Utd at this point by 6 points. A lead that is not insurmountable. A substantial part of the season is still left and Man Utd could stumble and let Chelsea’s sliver of hope change substantially from silver to gold.
Mourinho is now fodder for gossip like Carlo Ancelotti’s move from Milan to Chelsea. He is at odds with the Chelsea board because they refused his demands for January transfers. He is reported to have a falling out with Roman Abramovich fueling departure rumours. So why is Mourinho being targeted for the axe to fall? Is this a correction in attitude in which the board is trying to reign in Mourinho after two years of carte blanche or a deteriorating relationship. I think it is the latter because Mourinho is a strong personality who has complained that if he is forced to pick players who are not his first choices then he will leave. Abramovich has signaled that he is now more interested in developing players from the Chelsea academy and not in the transfer market. Why this change in attitude?
One player. Andrei Shevchenko. The former AC Milan has not turned out to be the goalscoring machine that he was supposed to be and in the process has cost Abramovich £30m. Sheva’s transfer has been the subject for much conjecture but it is believed that he was Roman Abramovich’s signing and had been ‘tapped up’ for over two years developing a close friendship with Sheva in this interim. Abramovich invited Shevchenko and his wife Karin Pazik to London, put them up in his Belgravia mansion, with his wife and Pazik going out together on shopping sprees. Pazik was the one to give the green signal for the move to Chelsea. Sheva himself was lukewarm to the move. Mourinho gives the impression of being a passive observer in this wooing process.
The feeling that one gets from Abramovich who sees his role as significantly lower than that of the manager is one of unhappiness with the way Mourinho has played Sheva. Mourinho sees Sheva as mostly a midfield player whose responsibility lies in feeding the ball to Drogba. “That player cannot be Drogba, it has to be Sheva because he is confident with the ball at his feet. He can receive and turn and pass.” This is not what Sheva did at Milan. He was used to getting passes at his feet and then doing the rest with his impeccable goalscoring instincts which is why Abramovich was so keen to get him in the first place. It must really rankle Abramovich to see Mourinho distort Sheva’s role at Chelsea, knowing fully well that he was primarily responsible for bringing in his good friend from Milan, promising in good faith that it would be worth it. But being a low key person, he can’t make this into a publicly personal feud and is using the board to tie Mourinho’s hands. The Sheva affair has also made him wary of trusting the transfer market. To be sure, it is not just Sheva but Ballack, Bouhlarouz, Mikel, and Cole who have proved to be disappointing this season but the personal investment in Sheva is prima facie in the tenuous relationship between Abramovich and Mourinho. It is also a cautionary tale in why a owner and player should not be personal friends.

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