Andre Villas-Boas’ reputation as Europe’s hottest young coach took quite a battering at Chelsea, lasting the increasingly standard nine months at Stamford Bridge. AsTottenham’s weekend 3-1 win over Man City confirmed, that protege status was indeed no joke.
Chelsea’s lack of forward planning has been evident since sacking the Portugal tactician. Even his appointment had shades of a mid-life crisis as Abramovich yearned for a younger sexier version of Mourinho. Now it is their London rivals who are feeling the benefits of Villas-Boas’ maturity.
Just over a year on from his sacking, the 35 year-old threatens to keep his former club out of the Champions League they won after his sacking. He would doubtless see that as vindication of his managerial abilities, and with some justification.
While Chelsea have sparkled in fits and starts this season, both Di Matteo and Benitez have continued the managerial suicide policy of rotating John Terry and Frank Lampard. Villas-Boas will also bemoan the fact that he never got to work with the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar, although Gareth Bale probably more than makes up for it.
It could quite easily be argued that Gareth Bale deserves most of the credit for Tottenham’s Champions League charge. At the same time, Villas-Boas seems to have allowed the Welsh wizard to take his game to a new level, with admittedly lofty comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo only rearing their head since he took charge.
Another feather in Villas-Boas’ cap could be the fact that Tottenham have not faded after Christmas as many predicted, and indeed grew accustomed to under Redknapp. The victory over Man City was a triumph of substitutions and tactics, and is a testament to the fighting spirit of a club that was only two weeks ago knocked out of the Europa League in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
QPR’s almost certain relegation will be causing even more Spurs supporters to ask ‘Harry who?’. While the England speculation could have been largely to blame for last season’s dramatic loss of form, there was an undeniable feeling that Redknapp’s reign had gone stale, and that he could have done more to commit himself to the club. With Luka Modric leaving, it took time for Villas-Boas to stamp his own mark at White Hart Lane, but he seems to have done just that, leaving plenty of optimism for the future.
Once Terry and Lampard are finally put out to pasture at Stamford Bridge, there may be a case for Villas-Boas to be the one to make a return to Chelsea over Mourinho. The Special One is seen as some kind of magic bullet, when in reality this is based on admittedly large past glories. Villas-Boas’ own career may yet prove even more fruitful.