Chelsea's limp Champions League exit completes season from hell

AFP , Wednesday 19 Apr 2023

As Chelsea owner Toddy Boehly surveyed the wreckage of his club's season from hell after their Champions League exit on Tuesday, the American might have pondered just how long it will be before they feature in the competition again.

Courtois
Real Madrid s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (L) reacts after wsaving a shot from Chelsea s Spanish defender Marc Cucurella (R) during the Champions League quarter-final second-leg football match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on April 18, 2023. AFP

 

Chelsea are left with nothing but pride to play for in the final weeks of a disastrous campaign after Real Madrid's 2-0 victory in the quarter-final second leg at Stamford Bridge completed a 4-0 aggregate success for the holders.

Appropriately, the troubled Premier League side once again paid the price for a lack of cutting edge as they wasted a host of chances before succumbing to a pair of clinical Real moves finished by Rodrygo.

Since Boehly joined forces with co-owner Behdad Eghbali's Clearlake Capital to buy Chelsea last year, the west London club have suffered one self-inflicted wound after another.

They are languishing in 11th in the Premier League, will finish without a trophy and are unlikely to even qualify for the Europa Conference League, leaving Boehly and Eghbali facing a turbulent close-season as they try to repair Chelsea's tarnished reputation.

In a sign of the turmoil enveloping Chelsea, former Blues striker Didier Drogba ripped into Boehly on French television ahead of the Real game.

"I don't recognise my club. It's no longer the same club. There is a new owner and a new vision. A dressing room of over 30 players is difficult for a manager," Drogba said.

The question is how much lower can Chelsea sink after suffering four successive defeats since Frank Lampard returned as manager until the end of the season following Graham Potter's sacking.

"Chelsea have had huge success for 20 years, winning the Premier League, qualifying for the Champions League year after year. Maybe this is the year where we aren't quite where we want to be," Lampard said.

"Manchester United and Arsenal have spent time out of the Champions League. Maybe some clubs are more stable than we are at the minute in terms of the squad. But we can set the building blocks now for where we want to get to."

Boehly's chaotic influence has turned Chelsea into a laughing stock less than 12 months into his reign.

The team that lifted the Champions League trophy under Thomas Tuchel just two years ago is already being broken up.

Of the 11 that started Chelsea's 1-0 win against Manchester City in the final in May 2021, only four were in Lampard's line-up to face Real on Tuesday.

Despite masterminding Chelsea's European triumph, Tuchel was surprisingly dismissed in September amid reports of rows between the German and Boehly over transfer policy.

Perhaps Tuchel had a point because Boehly's £550 million ($671 million) spending spree on new signings has done nothing to solve Chelsea's problems.

When the fiery Tuchel was axed, Potter was hired as the "collaborative" manager who would work with Boehly to replicate his impressive work with low-budget Brighton on a bigger stage with Chelsea.

But the former Ostersunds and Swansea boss looked out of his depth from the start of his first job at a major club.

It proved impossible for Potter to juggle a bloated squad, with Boehly crucially failing to find a prolific striker in his frenzied spending.

- 'Ruthless approach' -

Potter struggled to impose his philosophy on an injury-hit squad that reportedly lacked respect for his modest managerial CV, with some said to have mocked him as Boehly's puppet and nicknamed him 'Harry Potter' and 'Hogwarts'.

As his problems mounted, Potter quickly learned that Boehly's version of collaboration was to kick him to the kerb after just seven months.

After being confronted by angry fans during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat against Brighton, Boehly reportedly went into the dressing room and delivered a speech to the players, during which he called Chelsea's season "embarrassing".

Julian Nagelsmann, sacked by Bayern Munich this season, and former Spain boss Luis Enrique are believed to have spoken to Chelsea as the club searches for yet another manager.

Yet anyone on Chelsea's shortlist might want to consider that it was Real boss Carlo Ancelotti who brought the curtain down on his old club's wretched campaign.

Ancelotti was sacked by then Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich only a year after winning the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010.

Boehly appears to have inherited Abramovich's ruthless approach to managers.

But the Russian's cash unquestionably transformed Chelsea into serial winners, giving them a status and respect that Boehly, despite his cash, is already eroding.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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