Roman Abramovich works backwards as world champions Chelsea try to break Man City’s domestic dominance
European champions, world champions. But that didn’t stop a former Chelsea player from sticking the boot.
Craig Burley certainly didn’t share the euphoria after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Palmeiras in the Club World Cup final.
He tweeted: “As Chelsea won that plastic cup and it lapped up like a World Cup win. Manchester City were sixteen points clear of them, in a competition that really matters. Let that sink in.
He felt unnecessarily petty under the circumstances.
It’s perfectly reasonable to celebrate a trophy that completes a full set of honors in the club’s history, while accepting there’s still a long way to go elsewhere.
Chelsea are no more the best team in the world than they were the best team in Europe after winning the Champions League. But should that make victory any less sweet?
The fact that it took them 10 years to have a chance of winning the only trophy that eluded Roman Abramovich underscores how rarely the opportunity to be crowned world champion arises. It is a competition for which it is more difficult to qualify than to win.
That they treated it seriously and celebrated accordingly is not to be laughed at.
But that also doesn’t change the fact that breaking City’s dominance in the Premier League must be their priority going forward.
Today Abramovich, who changed the face of English and European football when he bought the club in 2003, is working almost backwards.
For so long, the Champions League has been his ultimate goal, with domestic successes not enough to satisfy his appetite.
Celebrating with Thomas Tuchel in Abu Dhabi, as he did at Porto last May, he will know that Chelsea remain some distance from Pep Guardiola’s champions, who only have Liverpool in sight when they look in their rear-view mirror. .
It’s not good enough. Not at this stage of the season – and those wishing to criticize Tuchel’s side further might suggest that the importance the German placed on the Club World Cup had to do with the fact that his title challenge has already followed his courses.
It would be unfair – and also ignore a record in cup competitions that proves Tuchel treats every trophy with the utmost respect.
Yet Frank Lampard was sacked for his failure to close the gap on City and Liverpool – and his successor is set to go even further.
Chelsea’s position in the league is the only mark against on Tuchel’s report card in just over a year in the job.
He’s already proving he’s a serial winner – and that’s not a bad thing.
Chelsea will face Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final at the end of the month, which means a potential fourth trophy in nine months.
He managed to turn the team he inherited into winners, with few additions – even though Romelu Lukaku cost a club record £97.5million.
It’s another way to please those above him, who don’t like to think the money was wasted on expensive recruits.
There’s also sympathy towards him over the injuries and Covid cases which have no doubt impacted Chelsea’s title challenge – although it’s doubtful they could have kept pace with a frantic city.
Tuchel largely shaped what he received, breathing new life into players who looked beyond the rescue and delivered trophies.
He will be backed by Abramovich this summer, with the Russian confident he can mount a real challenge for the title
It’s just a question of how much he will be allowed to build and create a team in his image in the manner of Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
City and Liverpool are the epitome of their managers. The same cannot be said for Chelsea, which makes Tuchel’s success all the more remarkable.
The fact that this latest triumph means they become one of five European clubs to win every major trophy also proves that long-term success does not depend on the kind of control Guardiola and Klopp enjoy.
That these two managers have dominated English football since Chelsea were the last Premier League champions in 2017 might suggest otherwise in the context of the title race.
But the Abramovich model continues to deliver.
Kai Havertz has scored the winning goals in both the Champions League and now the Club World Cup, although Lampard and Tuchel failed to get anything like a consistent tune from him.
Lukaku has scored in consecutive games in Abu Dhabi – but has been a headache for most of his time at Stamford Bridge and there are serious doubts about his suitability for the football Tuchel wants to play.
Are either of these players part of their coach’s ideal team?
What is his ideal squad – and will he ever get the chance to really build it, despite spending more time at the club than many of his predecessors?
These are the eternal questions at Chelsea.
In the meantime, the trophies keep pouring in.