Oh André, we tried! We tried so hard to love you! But in the end it wasn’t meant to be, André. You were just too sexy for us, you see? You were simply too intelligent, too cultured and too academic for our rough and ready English game. It’s not you André, it’s us.
Such is the message we of the English football world must send out this week as André Villas-Boas, for the second time in his fledgling managerial career, has been sacked mid season by a major London club. After a failed tenure at Chelsea, the dapper, academic Portuguese came to Tottenham, and looked like he might succeed. With Gareth Bale in his pocket, he took Spurs to within one game of the Champions League. But this season, it all went wrong again, and the Premier League’s sexiest manager is off to the labour exchange once more.
Villas-Boas has been courting English football ever since he came out of the womb of his Pro License training. In 2010, just before he took over Porto and won four trophies in one season, he applied for a different job. Villas-Boas, soon to be King of Portugal, wanted to be manager of Burnley.
According to reports from inside the club, he sent in a very good CV. He also had a powerpoint presentation – an entity which the loveable inhabitants of Burnley had only discovered about four months previously. Unsurprisingly, most of Villas-Boas’ grand, technical footballing vision went over the heads of the Burnley hierarchy. They decided that the use of words like “solidificate” would not endear him to their salt-of-the-earth-sixty-grand-a-week playing staff, and opted for Brian Laws instead. Porto got Villas-Boas. Burnley got relegated.
Credit to André, though. Like Mr Darcy himself, he did not let this initial snub from the motherland of football discourage him, and a year later he was rewarded with the Chelsea job. We liked him. We liked him so much we started referring to him – in serious newspaper articles and on serious television shows – as “AVB”. To save ourselves from being alienated by his unpronounceable foreign name, we rechristened him to sound like a video recorder.
Anyway, Given the absolute, full, unequivocal backing of football’s most trustworthy and patient figure Roman Abramovich, Villas-Boas set about revolutionising the Chelsea squad. Out with the old guard, and in with fresh inexperience. “Well, this is different” thought Abramovich from his yacht, and sacked him.
Then came the wonderful news from Tottenham. Harry Redknapp had been toppled, and Spurs were after a new coach. Who better than the anti-Redknapp? Attractive, educated, not too emotional and relatively reserved, Villas-Boas was everything that ‘Arry wasn’t, and he garnered some success, only to be denied of Europe’s elite on the final day of the season by Arsenal.
He should have accepted the potency of that omen. For in the world of English football, where our national heroes are bigots and a 21 year old is figuratively hung, drawn and quartered for having a fag in a nightclub, there is only room for one, genuine intellectual. That position has long been filled by Arsene Wenger, and for all the criticism the dear old Alsatian endures, he was not ready to surrender it to a young Iberian whippersnapper just yet.
Nonetheless, Villas-Boas was determined. Determined to succeed in his second season where he had failed in his first. He and Daniel Levy promptly spent just over 107 million pounds on new players in the transfer window. Unfortunately, they also sold their best player, and even with Villas-Boas’ wonderful brain, Spurs without Bale have proven to be about as impressive as Lothar Matthäus’s grasp of the subtleties of the English language.
Of course, with Spurs it is not just AVB’s fault. He was expected to create a title challenger out of a team which had been hastily and expensively dismantled and reassembled in the space of a few short months. Christian Eriksen, Roberto Soldado and co may all be very good players, but such horses have resolutely refused to drink when brought to the water of North London. They’re probably wise. We’ve all seen the Thames.
Once again, English football has proven itself incompatible with Villas-Boas. Our firm belief that spending endless amounts of money will bring a team immediate success is as resolute as it is ridiculous, and AVB must have known that from the beginning of the season.
So it is better for us both, André, if you simply never get in touch again. You go and manage in Spain where they appreciate you, and we’ll bitch about your arrogance to our friends in Scotland. We don’t deserve you André. We just don’t deserve you.