LONDON – There is one reason why Pep Guardiola never seriously considered joining Chelsea: Roman Abramovich.
The Russian doesn’t lose out very often and when you have been to court to fight — and win — a £6.5 billion private case brought by your former mentor and business partner Boris Berezovsky then missing out on a manager will not cause the Chelsea owner a minute’s lost sleep.
Abramovich usually gets what he wants because he is a billionaire and is prepared to pay whatever it takes, but there are some things money cannot buy and that includes the former Barcelona coach.
Rich Roman wanted Guardiola, but the coach who won 14 pieces of silverware in four season in charge at Nou Camp told Abramovich: “No thanks.” It may make Guardiola unique.
Guardiola would never work for an owner who fires trophy-winning managers — Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo — for no apparent reason.
Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas were given no time to fail or succeed.
Guardiola would not entertain an owner who bought players he did not, who has an unhealthy influence on team selection and who was called a “serious embarrassment” by the League Managers’ Association last year.
Roman’s way may work for Chelsea, but it doesn’t for Guardiola. On the day he was named Bayern Munich manager, Guardiola, in a video for the Football Association’s 150th anniversary, revealed that he would like to manage in England. He probably will one day, but with Manchester United, Manchester City or Arsenal, not Chelsea.
Money, either the salary or the lucrative Chelsea payoff, is not top of Guardiola’s wish list. Wherever he works Guardiola will be well paid, but he wants control, he wants to work with football people and he wants a club that fits his vision. Bayern will offer him all this, Chelsea wouldn’t.
At Bayern, the players share the same canteen as the office staff. Former Bayern superstars Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (chief executive officer), Uli Hoeness (general manager and president) and Franz Beckenbauer (honorary president) ensure the football family atmosphere Guardiola loves. And they never interfere with the day-to-day running of the team, unlike influence from above at Chelsea.
Guardiola’s appointment will not make any difference to the future of Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez, whose contract runs out at the end of the season. The Spaniard will probably be dismissed whatever Chelsea may win because that’s what happens at Stamford Bridge.
THIS IS THE illogical disciplinary logic of the Football Association. If a referee sees an incident and takes no action the F.A. is powerless to act, even if the official has missed what just about everyone believes is a nailed-on red card. There can be no retrospective action if the referee has seen the challenge.
However, if the referee sees and punishes what he deems a bad tackle and sends the player off, the F.A. can and does act even though the ref is adamant his decision was correct.
Last Sunday, Mike Dean showed Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany a red card for his challenge on Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, who was fortunate not to have been injured. Dean believed it was serious foul play and media opinion was generally behind the referee.
The Premier League’s referees body agreed Dean was correct, but City’s appeal for wrongful dismissal was upheld, an independent regulatory commission deciding the referee had made an obvious error, the wording changed from “clear and obvious error” last summer — the sort of topic that would keep a pedant going for hours. Oh, not one member of the commission was an ex-referee.
At most, Dean’s decision was marginal — 50/50 or maybe 60-40. What the commission’s definition of obvious was we don’t know as it never explains, but to most “obvious” would be something like 80-20 wrong. There is also the little matter of Law 5 which states: “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play . . . are final.”
Oh no they’re not.
While FIFA and UEFA have no appeal process for a red card apart from mistaken identity, the F.A. is happy to re-referee matches, ensuring the decision of the referee is NOT final.
In one fell swoop the F.A., which initiated the Respect program, has failed to back the referee and has added to the confusion of what constitutes serious foul play.
Most of all, it has guaranteed the next player who tackles with both feet off the ground at a speed that meant he had no control over the outcome of the challenge and endangers the safety of an opponent but is not sent-off, media merry-hell will be let loose.
The removal of “clear” from the disciplinary yardstick has seen six Premier League red cards overturned this season when previously very few appeals succeeded. David Bernstein, the F.A. chairman, said: “I think the system works well,” which puts him in an extremely small minority. “If there has been a clear injustice, it must be corrected.”
If perceived injustices are to be corrected, it must be a two-way street. At the moment a referee can see a challenge yet miss an elbow in an opponent’s face or a potential leg-breaking tackle and the F.A. does not act. Yet when Dean makes a decision that his bosses and the media back, the disciplinary commission can reverse the red card.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.