Big Phil Scolari: Is There a Void?
The mood at Stamford Bridge is one of optimism. The spirits are high after the signing of Luiz Felipe Scolari and the anticipation of the promised land of "beautiful football." Scolari arrives with a resume that includes success at the highest level with a penchant to be a winner.
The media seems to be in love with him already, and his wisecracks make him a fan favourite too. However, there is a side of him that has not been brought under the microscope; an aspect of his personality that the moralists might call "hypocrisy."
We all know what he told his players before Euro 2008 kicked off: "Focus on Portugal, the clubs can wait," clearly hinting at Cristiano Ronaldo and to some extent, Deco. He was a great proponent of single minded focus.
But, why did he not practice what he had preached?
His appointment at Chelsea was announced while Portugal were still involved in the tournament. However, the team were eliminated at the quarter final stage against Germany.
Now, I am not trying to suggest that his West London distraction cost Portugal an early exit at Euro 2008, but, that clearly was not an example of leadership.
At his Chelsea unveiling, he said that he would have accepted the England job in 2006, but the unwillingness of the Football Association to wait until the end of the World Cup in Germany compelled him to refuse the offer.
Scolari said, "I would have signed a pre-contract before the World Cup, and after the competition when one of the teams was out, we could say, "Okay, you are the coach."
"I would have said yes, after the tournament. But, after the first round Portugal met England. The timing [was] wrong—but they tried."
So, what he's saying is there was a potential conflict of interest that did not allow him to take up the England job before the World Cup was over.
But again, why did he sign for Chelsea in the middle of Euro 2008 by notwithstanding his own instructions to the players?
Ronaldo admitted that Scolari advised him to "Get Real." In an interview on June 21, Ronaldo said, "For me it is a great opportunity, and as Scolari says, that train passes by only once, and we have to take advantage of it."
Where was his principle of "conflict of interest" when he dispensed this advice?
Wasn’t he fully aware of the fact that Ronaldo is the most influential player for Manchester United, his then future employer Chelsea’s biggest rival?
One also fails to understand the logic behind "the train only passes once" line. Ronaldo is only 23 and still has a long way to go in his career. Does he think that Ronaldo has already reached his peak and will not be worth what he is after his contract at Old Trafford runs out in 2012?
Real Madrid made world record signings when they captured Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane who were 28 and 29. In addition, both had illustrious careers at their former clubs in Barcelona and Juventus.
Is Scolari unaware of this? Or is this is a failure of judgment from a former World Cup winning coach? Frank Lampard is 30, and is a hot property with Inter-Milan as they are desperate for his signature. So, Ronaldo can wait to board his dream train.
He recently denied that he advised Ronaldo to join Real, " I never advised Cristiano Ronaldo to change his club, I want to make that clear."
So is he now saying that Ronaldo was lying?
Scolari also made a huge error in the Lampard situation on Tuesday by saying, "I was very happy because I asked if he wants to stay and he said 'yes, I will stay at Chelsea'." But, after that, he received a strong response from his agent Steve Kutner that the player’s future was "completely unresolved."
Lampard is reported to be infuriated by Scolari’s claims to the media. So even if Chelsea do manage to hang on to him, it will not be the most congenial situation for the squad.
Scolari's credentials as a football coach are unquestionable, but his ethics leave a lot to be desired.
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