Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf recently sat down with former caretaker owner Merab Jordania for an exit interview, of sorts, and Jordania was rather candid when asked about the relationship between Chelsea and Vitesse. The interview was first brought to our attention by our good friends at SV Vitesse and we have quite a few interesting revelations to discuss.
The biggest piece of news stemming from the interview was Jordania's claims that Chelsea was planning to sell Patrick van Aanholt FC Twente. We took a close look at this last week, and now we're going to move on to the other parts of the interview.
Jordania all but affirmed the strongly-held opinion (by me, at least) that he was acting as a caretaker owner for Alexander Chigirinsky all along. He said "Chigirinsky is my best friend. There is nothing but pure friendship between us. Let's say I've kept my obligations and promises to Alexander." Jordania also said that he didn't earn a penny on the sale.
The Georgian also shed some light on the extent of his involvement with the club. In the interview, he comes across as an extremely passionate Vitesse supporter. His passion for football in general has never been in question, as he had a long career on the pitch before moving to the boardroom to run one of the clubs he played for, Dinamo Tbilisi, and later, he became the head of the Georgian Football Federation. He even stepped in to manage the senior squad for three matches during the 2004 Euro qualifiers. However, he truly appears to love Vitesse, and calls his involvement "the best project of his life." He even goes as far to say that he loves Vitesse as much as he loves his child. He says that even though he is no longer officially involved in the club, his passion for the club remains as steadfast as it was during the past three years.
Jordania claims he saved PvA from being sold
In this same interview, Merab Jordania claimed Chelsea was about to sell Patrick van Aanholt to Twente before Jordania intervened.
Jordania uses some curious language when describing the handover to Chigirinsky, however, saying it was done "involuntarily." To me, that sounds a bit odd, as such a word suggests something of a negative connotation, and seemingly contradicts Jordania's comments about how much he loves Chigirinsky. Given that I was having problems figuring out what Jordania meant by that, I asked Dutch Chelsea fan Mark Will Stinson about it, and he graciously helped fill in the gaps caused by the language barrier (the interview, naturally, was in Dutch).
I asked Stinson about this and he agreed that the interview has a very strange tone.
Chigirinsky and Jordania clearly had an agreement in place before they bought the club, so it seems odd that Jordania would say that he gave up the club "involuntarily." Stinson made an excellent observation, opining that Jordania likely became so attached to Vitesse, that he was reluctant to give it up. So, when it was time for Chigirinsky to step out from behind the curtain, Jordania was understandably a bit disappointed. Stinson compares Jordania's tone to that of a surrogate parent raising a child for three years and then having to give the baby back to the biological parents.
Stinson also says that based on the tone of the interview, "it does not sound like Jordania has the same kind of relationship with Abramovich as he has with Chigirinsky." When the interviewer asks Jordania about whether or not he has ever had any conflict with Abramovich or Chelsea, Jordania says that he wouldn't comment on his relationship with "London."
Stinson notes that Jordania appears to boast about how he did not allow Chelsea to interfere when he appointed Peter Bosz, and the fact that he singled out van Aanholt and Piazon for praise comes across a bit negative towards Nemanja Matić, Slobodan Rajković (who captained the squad), Tomáš Kalas, Gael Kakuta, and the rest of the players Chelsea generously loaned to Vitesse. Stinson also notes that Jordania kept pointing out his own achievements at Vitesse and doesn't credit Chelsea with anything.
The truth, of course, is that Chelsea has exerted considerable influence over the decisions being made at Vitesse since they first began working together in 2010. Without Abramovich and Chigirinsky, Vitesse would likely have been relegated from the Eredivisie instead of sitting at the top of the table with Ajax right now. Stinson notes that the obvious disconnect "could, of course be, the remarks of a bitter man who always sees Chelsea get credit for HIS work and Vitesse's arrival at the top [tier of Dutch football]." Stinson also says that "during his time as owner and chairman, [Jordania's] actions never proved a negative vibe towards Chelsea, but this interview is different."
I would actually agree that Jordania doesn't get enough credit for Vitesse's rise to the top. While there is zero chance that he would have been hired to run the club without being friends with Chigirinsky and Abramovich, that doesn't mean that he wasn't qualified for the position. Not only was he qualified, at least from the perspective of footballing experience, but he also did a remarkable job.
While he was very candid, Jordania does say that he cannot be completely open, because "he is part of a game of power between Arnhem and London" and further, Roman Abramovich and Alexander Chigirinsky are too big for him.
According to Stinson, Jordania is essentially saying that he's either a bit in over his head in this "game of power" with the likes of Roman Abramovich and Alexander Chigirinksy, or that he knows his place and isn't going to speak out of school. That is, the influence of the Russian billionaires is simply too big for Jordania to speak competely freely.
Stinson also points out that he has not seen any pictures of Jordania with Chelsea board member Marina Granovskaia, as we did when Chigrinsky took in his first game as the new owner. Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words, and Chigirinsky and Granovskaia watching the match together at the Gelredome is quite evocative of the close relationship between the two clubs.
While this sounds more like something we'd see on Sunday nights on HBO rather than a weekday afternoon in a football boardroom, Stinson cautions that De Telegraaf "is a bit of a tabloid and definitely not the New York Times." Stinson also provides some much-needed context, letting us know that this is "probably a bit sensationalised by the De Telegraaf."
Jordania also expresses regret over sacking Vitesse legend Theo Bos shortly after taking over the club. Bos wore the black and yellow kit over 350 times in his fourteen years at Vitesse and managed the club the season before Jordania took control. Tragically, the man they call "Mr. Vitesse" passed away after a battle with cancer in February 2013 at the age of forty-seven. Jordania says that the tribute Bos received at the Gelredome in March will never be equaled.
Very strange interview, right?
Save for the van Aanholt bit, I wasn't even going to report on the rest of it, for fear that I was misconstruing what was being said. However, many thanks is due to Mark Will Stinson for help with the translation and for sharing his insights into the Jordania interview. We wouldn't have been able to report on the rest of the Jordania interview without him, and Mark has proven invaluable to WAGNH's ongoing Vitesse coverage. His Twitter feed is full of information not readily accessible to those of us living outside of the Netherlands and is a must-add for anyone interested in what's happening over at Cobham East.
Traore in, Kakuta, Hutchinson out
This leaves Chelsea with five players at Vitesse - Traore, Lucas Piazon, Patrick van Aanholt, Christian Atsu, and Cristian Cuevas.
After being injured to start the season, Kakuta wasn't able to crack the starting lineup, although he did manage to feature in 12 of the 13 games he was healthy for as a substitute. Fellow Blue Christian Atsu has made a seamless transition from his normal position on the left flank to a central No. 10 role, and given that no one is about to supplant Piazon on the left wing, there just wasn't anywhere for Kakuta to play.
Traore is also a left-footed winger, but he's of the trendy inverted variety, so playing time shouldn't be an issue (so long as he's able to supplant Renato Ibarra in the starting lineup. If he has designs on ever supplanting any of the wingers at Stamford Bridge, he should easily be able to claim the starting RW spot at Vitesse).
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that Kakuta will have much of a career at Chelsea, and it would likely be best for both the club and the player to find a new home that can offer Kakuta some playing time and managerial stability he likely needs to have a chance to reach some of the tremendous potential he once showed. For Hutchinson, he'll likely always have a place at Chelsea, and if he wants to continue playing professionally, I'm sure Chelsea will do whatever needs doing to make that happen (likely another loan). If he wants to resume his second career as a coach, I'm sure there's a whistle and a great opportunity to learn waiting for him at Cobham.
Peeking through the window of Vitesse's eventful 2013
The always-excellent Vitesse video team put together a terrific video covering the highs and lows of the club's year. It is well worth the watch.
If you've enjoyed our coverage of Vitesse during the last few months of 2013, you'll love what we have planned in 2014. We have some very exciting things in the works, and we'll be covering every step of Vitesse's march to securing Champions League football and it's first-ever Eredivisie title.
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- Report: Barcelona want to play Chelsea in a February friendly
- Traore joins Vitesse, Hutchinson and Kakuta recalled
- Reports indicate Bertrand Traore is joining Vitesse on loan