Tantrums and silverware make Scolari perfect for Chelsea

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Any manager of Chelsea, as Avram Grant found out to his cost last month, needs to be a serial collector of silverware and have a big personality able to cope with one of the most unforgiving jobs in soccer.

Luiz Felipe Scolari, who will take over at the London club on July 1 once his stewardship of Portugal comes to an end at Euro 2008, can put a large tick in both boxes.

The Brazilian, who is approaching his 60th birthday, has an appetite for success to match Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, while his passion for the game often spills over into temper tantrums and run-ins with officials and opposing players.

The thought of Scolari head to head in the technical area with Manchester United’s tempestuous Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger next season is a dream scenario for the hyped-up Premier League.

Chelsea fans spent most of last season recovering from the sudden departure of their beloved Jose Mourinho, the man who returned glory to Stamford Bridge after 50 years of league mediocrity, winning two titles in his three seasons in charge.

For all his honest endeavour and impressive results, Grant, a rather dour Israeli, was never going to fill Mourinho’s boots and was sadly lacking in the ‘wow’ factor demanded by both Abramovich and the fans.

When Grant was sacked despite taking the west London club to their first Champions League final and pushing United all the way to the final day of the Premier League season, Chelsea fans awaited the announcement of a real heavyweight coach.

Unsuccessful overtures for AC Milan’s Carlo Ancellotti and Inter’s Roberto Mancini appeared to underline the folly of allowing Mourinho to leave.

Scolari’s decision to accept arguably the most demanding job in club soccer should allow them to sleep easy.

Scolari will become the first Brazilian to manage a leading English club and whether he delivers or not, life at Stamford Bridge certainly should not be dull.

Two years after turning down the England job, citing his concerns over media harassment, Scolari has put himself firmly in the firing line.

His track record suggests that he could be the man to turn Chelsea from ‘nearly men’ to the dominant force in English soccer once again after playing second fiddle to Manchester United for two seasons.

The Brazilian certainly will not shirk the challenge.

In 2001 he took over an ailing Brazil squad struggling to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals.

Brazilian fans worried about his reputation for rough tactics but a year later Brazil were crowned world champions against all the odds by beating Germany.

Scolari was sensible enough to leave his audience wanting more and left to become Portugal coach in 2003, steering them to the final of Euro 2004 where they lost to Greece.

Just like in 2002 when Brazil beat England, Scolari out-witted England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson on the way to the final, his touchline histrionics providing a stark contrast to Eriksson’s ice-cool persona.

The straight-talking former central defender’s volatile temperament and passion for the game has won him an army of fans, and plenty of critics along the way. But there is no doubting his tactical acumen and ability to instil team spirit.

For all the flare-ups and comedy moments, Chelsea have hired one of the best coaches money can get. He will relish the cut and thrust of England’s abrasive top flight and if anybody can take Chelsea nearer to their dream of world domination it is Big Phil.

Factbox on Luiz Felipe Scolari who will take over as Chelsea’s new manager on July 1:
Born: Nov 9, 1948 in Passo Fundo, Rio Grand do Sul, Brazil
* Played for several Brazilian clubs, gaining a reputation as a tough central defender. Ended playing career with CSA in 1982 and took over as coach.
* Enjoys coaching stint abroad in Saudi Arabia with Al Shabab club in 1984/85. Also coaches in Kuwait.
* Makes name in Brazil with Gremio, winning Copa Brasil in 1994 and Libertadores Cup the following year.
* Coach of Sao Paulo club Palmeiras from 1997-2000. Won the Libertadores Cup.
* In June 2001, he becomes Brazil’s fourth coach in a year.
After poor start qualifies for 2002 World Cup finals and wins the trophy against the odds.
* Quits after the tournament and becomes Portugal’s coach three months later.
* Steers Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 in Lisbon but the hosts surprisingly lose to Greece.
* Takes Portugal to 2006 World Cup finals where his side finishes fourth. Rejects move six weeks before the tournament to coach England after the finals are over, citing media harassment. Five days after finals finish extends Portugal contract to 2008.
* Scolari’s famous temper boils over after a Euro 2008 qualifying game against Serbia, aiming a punch at Ivica Dragutinovic after being pushed by the player.
* Qualifies Portugal for Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland.
* June 11. Despite Portugal still being involved in the tournament Scolari is named as Chelsea’s new manager, starting from July 1.

© Reuters 2014

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