The English daily The Sun has revealed an astonishing training-ground bust-up between Andre Villas-Boas and his players that left Nicolas Anelka and Alex humiliated.
Chelsea has officially confirmed two of their most senior players—Anelka and Alex—will be available in the January transfer window.
But The Sun report implies that, following defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool, and with pressure mounting on the young Chelsea boss, Villas-Boas called a meeting with the four most senior players—John Terry, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech—in which he told them that he expected their help in getting the team "pulling in the right direction."
The Sun reports that the conversation became heated and that AVB suggested they reconvene for lunch the following day.
However, that never materialized and the issues remained unresolved until Villas-Boas confronted all the players during a practice session at the club's Cobham training ground.
The players were stunned when their new manager started criticizing them one by one in front of each other, pulling no punches and leaving them in little doubt about what he thought of their performances.
The astonishing article goes on to quote one Chelsea insider, who said:
It was unbelievable. The manager would look at a player, tear him to shreds, then move on to the next one. For example, he turned to Didier Drogba and told him, "You're a fraction of the player you were last season." Then he turned to the next player and laid into him. Everyone was stunned, they'd never seen him like this and had never been treated like this before.
The insider is then reported as saying that Anelka was first to feel the icy blast, with AVB turning to him and saying, "I don't want to see you anywhere near the first team again."
The red top reports that the insider continued:
The manager told Anelka he was banned from training with the first team, banned from using the training facilities if the first-team squad were using them—and told he would be training with the reserves from now on.
Then AVB turned to Alex and said "And the same applies to you."
The exchange apparently left the entire squad staggered.
Today, The Daily Mail report that AVB has also turned his sights on the media. He is accusing them of having hidden agendas and, in one report, is now demanding that players who score goals must turn to the bench and involve the manager in celebrations.
If there is a grain of truth in any of this, how worrying is that? Does it tell us that AVB is making it clear who is in control? Or is the strain of managing a top European club now showing?