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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Special Avram Grant News

AVRAM GRANT is ready to move Chelsea on to a new level with a £100m summer spending spree aimed at leaving rivals in their wake.

By targeting current world footballer of the year Kaka or Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the Blues boss is hoping to stamp his mark on Stamford Bridge.
Forget what has happened this season – with a squad inherited from Jose Mourinho, which was always more workmanlike than entertaining – Grant wants to be judged on next year.
And he is convinced the way forward to is to dazzle his way to glory with a brand of football currently employed by Manchester United and Arsenal.
He knows neither club will stand still over the summer, nor Liverpool, either – but the revolution which is likely to take place in west London could be the most remarkable

This is not a man who is fearing for his position in the wake of the dismal home draw against Wigan, a result which gave United a clear advantage in the title race.
Grant has the air of a man convinced he will still be in the hot-seat come the start of next season – and with a frightening amount of talent at his disposal.
Often, in European football, managers and chairmen speak of their admiration of top stars, but rarely do they speak in such definite tones about whether they are signing them or not.
Grant said: “Will it take a flair player like Kaka or Messi? I will not reject that one of the names that you say will be here.
“Will they come? I think so, yes. This is a big club.”
Whichever of the two he particularly has in mind, it will really see Chelsea elevated to their highest status yet.

Under Mourinho there was a good squad littered with quality players, but never one of the game’s greats at performing at the peak of their powers.
This is no repeat of the arrival of the ageing and struggling Andriy Shevchenko, for either Kaka or Messi would be a deal to rival the likes of Zinedine Zidane’s move from Juventus to Real Madrid.
The Brazilian’s brilliance has inspired AC Milan to domestic and European success, while Argentine ace Messi is revered at the Nou Camp.
Of the two, perhaps Kaka is the more easily obtainable, especially if Milan succeed in their pursuit of Ronaldinho from Barca.

With the Spanish giants likely to offload Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho over the summer, the sale of Messi would lead to huge unrest among their already frustrated supporters.
Either way, Grant believes his top target will come to the Bridge, whether Chelsea win a trophy or not.
The Israeli coach added: “Only one team can win the Champions League. Only one team can be champions of England.
“You think players will only come to these two teams? No.
“It’s not about how many players – it’s about which player you can bring. We want a different style of football. If a player is good for this, we want to take him.
“I am already planning. We’re speaking about it all the time for the long and short-term.”
Grant claims Chelsea are willing to spend a staggering £100m to bring in the kind of world star he wants. Forget cutting back on his investment, Roman Abramovich seems to be on the brink of his biggest spending spree yet.
Grant said: “I do not think the money will be a problem if we find a good player, or players, to bring in… £80m, £100m?

“However, we do not have the advantage of two or three years ago. We know United will also spend money and, in my opinion, Arsenal and Liverpool as well. The advantage we had a few years ago – when all the big clubs in Europe didn’t have money – is finished.
“Three years ago, if you offered big money, the player was yours, but now it’s changed.”
No wonder Grant seems unfazed over the ongoing uncertainty around the futures of players like Didier Drogba or Frank Lampard – he seems safe in the knowledge that replacements can be bought.
Both are likely to miss tonight’s match at Goodison, with Lampard on compassionate leave and Drogba still nursing a knee injury.
Chelsea don’t want to risk him with Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final to come.
The Blues can cut United’s lead at the top to two points by beating Everton, but it may still not be enough.

United must slip up elsewhere to let Chelsea back in the race and could even clinch the title at Stamford Bridge on April 26.
Grant said: “I definitely don’t want that to happen! Realistically we weren’t given a chance from day one.
“There was always a team above us with more points, but I will not give up until it’s over.
“Everton is a very important game. The players need to be strong and show character.
“We have not had so many bad days this season, but we have recovered every time.”

Avram Grant seeks to lay blame on Jose Mourinho

For a man facing an uncertain future, Avram Grant seems strangely fixated with the past. Although not uttering the name of his predecessor, the Chelsea first-team coach did his best yesterday to blame José Mourinho for the flak he has faced this season, saying that he inherited a team in no shape to challenge for the Barclays Premier League title.
In one sense Grant is correct because succeeding a man such as Mourinho is an impossible job, although many will be sceptical about his attempt to deflect the responsibility for his team's failings. Chelsea were fifth in an embryonic table when Grant took over in September, although they were only two points behind Arsenal, the leaders at the time, and level with Manchester United, so keeping them in contention until the later stages of the season does not constitute the remarkable recovery he would have everyone believe.

Grant deserves credit for keeping an unhappy dressing-room together during a difficult period, although whether Chelsea have made any real progress over the past seven months is unclear, with consistent Premier League results counter-balanced by embarrassing cup defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Barnsley and lingering doubts about the quality of the team's football.
As a statistical curiosity, Grant's record in 28 league matches is the same as Mourinho's over the corresponding period last season, which is fitting because it seems certain to yield the same result: second place behind United. Failure to beat Everton at Goodison Park this evening would end their fading hopes, although Grant insists that they have done well to extend the title race this far.

“Realistically, we did not have a chance from Day 1 I was here, as there was always a team above us with more points than Chelsea,” he said. “When I received the team, I don't think anyone, including the Prime Minister of England, could see us in the position we're in now. We came from nowhere to fight for the championship and I think we've done a great job until now.
“We feel pressure all the time, but it is a good pressure and I don't want to live without it. If Manchester United take the title, I will be the first to congratulate them, but at the moment I will not give up. We're still fighting and still believe we can do it. Nobody told me I have to deliver a trophy, but I want to more than others. Compared to when I received the club, the situation is good.”

Grant has reservations about the make-up of his - or rather Mourinho's - squad and is planning an extensive overhaul, as The Times reported yesterday. The Israeli is expecting a difficult summer in the transfer market, however, fearing that Chelsea have lost their financial advantage and he may have to lower his sights from high-profile stars such as Lionel Messi, of Barcelona, to less well-known players such as Luka Modric, of Dynamo Zagreb.

“We know the position of the club,” Grant said. “I do not think the money will be a problem if we find a good player, or players, to bring in. It could be £80million or £100million, but we do not have the advantage of two or three years ago. We know Man United also spend money, in my opinion Arsenal will also buy and Liverpool also. We will do the same. We're happy with what happened this year but want to improve it.

“The advantage that we had two or three years ago, when all the big clubs in Europe did not have money, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Real Madrid, has gone. Money was not the issue here. Three years ago when a player was big money, he was yours. Now it has changed. I don't think that Barcelona, for example, will give Messi away even for big money.”

As if preparing the fans for domestic disappointment, Grant said for the first time that the Champions League had been his main target all along, and it could be the only trophy left to play for at the end of this evening. Chelsea will again be without Frank Lampard, who has stayed in London with his ill mother, while Didier Drogba is a doubt because of a knee injury.
“We have an important league game at Everton and then have five days to think about the Champions League, which we say all the time is the main target,” Grant said. “It's always been the target and we're in a good position.”

AVRAM GRANT has made the incredible claim that he is doing a brilliant job at Chelsea — and that even Gordon Brown would be impressed.

While his players are turning against him and many of the club’s fans are unimpressed with his team, Grant reckons he has delivered a big turn-around of the club’s fortunes.
When the Israeli took over in September, Chelsea were five points off the leaders and they go to Everton tonight once again five points off the leaders.
Some would argue that the PM is good at fiddling figures but, on this occasion, even Brown would probably admit that nothing has actually changed.
Also, during Grant’s amazing ‘revival’, Chelsea lost in the Carling Cup final to Spurs and were also humiliated by Barnsley in the FA Cup.
The obvious plus is their appearance in next week’s Champions League semi-final against Liverpool.

Grant, whose team were jeered off the pitch following Monday’s 1-1 draw with Wigan, claimed: “When I received the team I don’t think anyone, including the Prime Minister of England, could see us in the position we were in on Monday — or the position we are still in. We are still fighting.
“Realistically, we did not have a chance from day one I was here. There was always a team above us with more points than Chelsea.
“I think we have done a great job and anyone who’s a reasonable man will tell you the same. I think 100 per cent of people never think the same, especially in football.
“We have come from nowhere to fight for the championship. We feel pressure all the time but it is a good pressure, I don’t want to live without it. On the football side there has been progress.
“But not every side in the world can win every time. We were unlucky on Monday against Wigan.
“But the football we played in the second half was the football we want to play, with scoring goals of course.”
As for getting it in the neck from the supporters, Grant said: “I respect the fans because they are there before any manager and after any manager, before any player and after any player.
"I respect the last fan sitting in the last row but I know as well in this room that 20 people do not think the same.

“I think most fans respect what we have done for them. You have to respect what we have done this season. We have taken so many points.
“Remember last year, without Drogba and Lampard, when we took a lot of points with so many injured players. It shows the good spirit of the team.
"I have said to the players I am very proud of them for what they did this year. Very proud because they have done good things. But in this game, like any game, sometimes you make mistakes.
“I’m happy with the commitment of the players this year. We are still fighting and we still believe.

“In football anything can happen. When we beat Middlesbrough everyone said they were a very weak team, then Man U slip up against them — but we must think of Everton first. That is a very important game.”
Yesterday, former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin speculated that Frank Rijkaard will be the new Blues boss next season.
He said: “I’m speaking as someone who just wants the best for the club. I don’t have the ear of chairman Bruce Buck or owner Roman Abramovich.
“But I would not be devastated or all that surprised if Frank Rijkaard turns up as the Chelsea manager next year.

“I write for the Chelsea website every Tuesday and usually ask a little question at the end. Usually, I get a couple of hundred e-mails per week.
“I’ve got over 1,000 e-mails sitting there and they are not answers to the question. Most seem to think Grant has a problem.”
Grant added: “Every week I hear a coach connected to Chelsea, it was the same last year. It happens. What do you want me to answer? I’m concentrating on my job and have every confidence in what we’re doing.”

Defiant Grant says his future lies at Chelsea· Manager planning transfer targets with Abramovich

Insists he has worked wonders to be in title race

Gordon Brown is not synonymous with sporting predictions but when Avram Grant claimed yesterday that nobody, "including the prime minister of England, could have seen us in the position we are in [now] when I received the team" he had got his point across, and with uncharacteristic hyperbole too.
The under-fire Chelsea manager was in fighting mood before tonight's crucial Premier League fixture at Everton and he did not stop with an outspoken defence of his record. He felt sufficiently confident to declare that he had started talks with the owner, Roman Abramovich, and scouting director, Frank Arnesen, about transfer targets and he suggested that the summer would give him the opportunity to shape the team in the desired image

Although Grant signed Nicolas Anelka in January and the Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic, who has yet to feature, the team and the playing style remain largely those of his predecessor, Jose Mourinho. Abramovich has demanded greater fantasy and Grant believes he will be entrusted with the close-season alterations. "We are already speaking about this all the time, planning for the short- and the long-term," he said. "It's not about how many [new signings] but which ones you can bring. We want to play a certain type of football and if they can help us with that we will want to take them.

"The advantage we had three years ago was that the other big clubs didn't have the money, including Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona, so we could show the money and get the player. Now it has changed. For example, I don't think Barcelona would give you [Lionel] Messi even if you showed them big money."

At present only Joe Cole consistently quickens the pulse at Chelsea. The club will be in the market for players who are capable of moments of magic and there will be spaces freed up by sales. Didier Drogba is expected to be the highest-profile departure and his fellow strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro do not feature in any long-term plans.

Florent Malouda, the winger signed for £13.5m from Lyon last summer, is another the club would like to move on. He left the French champions to play for Mourinho, not Grant, and his performances have been hugely disappointing. Frank Lampard, meanwhile, must attempt to broker a new contract at the end of the season. His existing deal runs out in the summer of 2009. "I think players will want to join Chelsea," said Grant. "We are a big club, we want to be bigger. Only one team can take the title or the Champions League so you think all the good players will just want to join that one club?"

The level of hostility from Chelsea's fans towards Grant was illustrated yesterday by Pat Nevin, the club's former winger. He was as horrified as they were at the concession of a late equaliser to Wigan Athletic on Monday, which left Grant's side five points behind the leaders, Manchester United, with four games to play. "I write for the Chelsea website every Tuesday and usually ask a little question at the end," said Nevin, who would not be "devastated or all that surprised if Barcelona's Frank Rijkaard turns up as the Chelsea manager" next season. "My emails went into meltdown because the only way you can contact the club is through my email address. I've got over 1,000 emails sitting there and they are not answers to the question."

Grant bristled with defiance. "Every week there is another coach connected to Chelsea; it was also true last year," he said. "There is no news." He also laid down the law to the defender Tal Ben-Haim, who reportedly said he "knew nothing good would come with Grant as Chelsea coach". Ben-Haim may be on his way. "If a player was wrong, we need to deal with it in our way, my way," said Grant.

Grant took over in September with the team sixth in the league, five points behind the leaders, Arsenal. They had also drawn their opening Champions League game against Rosenborg. "Realistically, we did not have a chance from day one that I was here," said Grant. "There was always a team above us with more points. [But] we have made good developments in the Champions League and the Premier League and now we want to finish it. Anyone who is reasonable will say that we have done a very good job. I don't expect 100% of people to think the same, though."