Andre Villas-Boas charms the media at his Chelsea unveiling
It's hard not to like the new Chelsea manager after an impressive debut in front of the English media
Andre Villas-Boas switches his gaze from lens to lens, responding to every photographers’ frantic call in the Tambling suite at Stamford Bridge with a smile. “Don’t worry, I have enough time,” he jokes, obligingly holding up a Chelsea shirt for the cameras.
He may have had plenty of it on Wednesday morning at his first Chelsea news conference, but time is not a luxury the west London club’s most recent string of managers have been free to enjoy.
Roman Abramovich has ruthlessly dismissed the coaches – six in eight years – that failed to meet his lofty expectations and Villas-Boas, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti in the hot-seat, is well aware of the Russian billionaire’s chopping block.
“The managers that have been sat in this chair for the last seven years have been challenging for trophies,” he says. “That’s the kind of expectation there is at a club like this one. Our plan is the same as any top club – to win straight away and to win on a weekly basis. That’s the challenge that I face, there’s no running away from that.”
He makes it plain and simple. “I would be surprised to be kept in the job if I don’t win – it’s as straightforward as that. To be successful – that’s the challenge.”
At 33 years old, Villas-Boas is the youngest manager to ever take charge of a Premier League side. He is the same age as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. No problem, says the former Porto boss.
“It’s normal for people to judge my age because it all happened at a very young age for me,” he continues. “I started my career as a coach when I was 18. It’s something that will happen throughout my career.
“But I think the players are responsible and professional enough to respect the position of the manager. If they lose that respect then something is wrong. You have to show respect for what you do so there should be no problems. It never was a problem and I don’t think it will be this time around.”
When asked about how he plans to get the best out of a misfiring Fernando Torres, Villas-Boas drew a comparison between the Spaniard and the Porto striker Radamel Falcao, who enjoyed a prolific season last term.
“We faced this question last year at Porto with a striker of the quality of Falcao,” he said. “He was a striker who didn’t find the back of the net in pre-season and ended up very frustrated. We didn’t tune the team to provide to him. We tuned the team as a whole. Once we did that, he scored 30 goals in a season, 60 in two seasons.
“The quality is amazing from every single player at Chelsea, but the important thing is to tune the team.”
The new Chelsea boss also shed some light on his “difficult separation” from Porto. “I was born in that city and it will always be my club,” he says. “My commitment to Porto was 100 per cent, but I think everyone in their life feels the need for a new challenge. I just felt that I should take the opportunity.”
So, how does the Portuguese manager describe the style of football he hopes to bring to Stamford Bridge? “We are people who defend our philosophy to the death – a philosophy that the game should be an entertaining game for the fans. It’s not just about winning, it’s a question of winning with a certain amount of flair.”
And his impressive first performance in front of the English media would not have been complete without a reminiscent mention of Jose Mourinho, who Villas-Boas worked under at both Chelsea and Internazionale.
But he has not been in touch with the Real Madrid manager since he left Inter. “We don’t speak for a long time,” he says. “There are no hard feelings, we’re just two busy people moving around in this busy football world.”
He may never shake off the mini-Mourinho tag – but he’ll keep trying. Is he the new Special One? “Maybe I should be called the Group One.” Possible feuds with players and other managers? “I’m not a confrontational guy. I’m here to put everyone together to respond on the pitch.”
Disappointing responses for the media perhaps, but Chelsea fans are already getting the feeling their club is in the right capable, ambitious hands.