Michael Emenalo was a great many things to Chelsea and a great many more less-great things to Chelsea fans. He was a scout, a technical director, a visionary, briefly an assistant manager, even. He was also a scapegoat, a lightning rod for criticism, everything that was wrong with the club, an incompetent fool, an enemy of Mourinho/Conte, and so on and so forth. Not all of those things are true of course, especially from the second list. What’s that saying, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone? Yep.
Emenalo’s time at Stamford Bridge did not begin under welcoming circumstances as in the public eye, he replaced the beloved Ray Wilkins on the Chelsea bench as Ancelotti’s assistant. Emenalo never quite recovered from that first impression. He was also the public face of Mourinho’s second sacking, complete with an unfortunate catchphrase, “palpable discord”. And of course the Conte vs. Emenalo stories were ever-present all last season.
Meanwhile, in the background, as he rose from scout to director, Emenalo overhauled Chelsea’s scouting systems, created and oversaw (and defended) the massive Loan Army program, identified and recommended fantastic future talents (Courtois, Lukaku, De Bruyne, just to mention a few we all may have heard of), and often served as the football-facing side of the executive Board, the one person among all of the suits who actually had first-hand football experience and not just a business or law degree. Surely that counts for something even in these modern times.
And that’s probably just a partial list of his accomplishments. And while we might never know just how he got on with Mourinho, as it turns out, he got on very well with Conte. They may have disagreed on potential transfer targets (or they may have not), but the key to a good professional relationship isn’t to always agree, but to trust, respect, and communicate effectively. Trust is a word Conte often used even when talking about transfer market troubles.
Now the word is “big loss” instead. It’s so big, it’s two words in fact.
“To lose Michael, it was a big loss for us, yes. I think so, I think so. Also because Michael did a great job for this club for many years.”
“Last season he helped me a lot during the season. This season, until he left, he helped me a lot. I remember very well he left just after the Manchester United game… For me, for sure, it was a big loss in November.”
As more and more time passes since Emenalo decamped to sunny Monaco, the more and more we’re coming to appreciate that he was far closer to being a solution than he was to being a problem. After the initial shameful euphoria of his sacking, which was soon revealed to actually be a resignation, reports started emerging that he was actually the “sane” mediator between headstrong managers on the one side and headstrong executives on the other. (For all we know, the stress of doing that on a daily basis may have been a factor in his decision to leave.)
“But this is not my decision. As you know very well, my task is to work very hard. This is not my decision. This is the decision for others. I’m not in a position to say.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Guardian
Emenalo’s departure was not Chelsea’s gain an it certainly was not Conte’s. It was in fact Conte’s loss. And probably Chelsea’s, too. And the fallout’s just begun.