It’s been almost an entire year since Michael Emenalo packed up his things and left us for sunnier climes (and perhaps a more rewarding working environment) in the south of France. His office at Cobham has stood empty since. Considering that the former technical director actually told the club’s higher-ups about his plans in the summer, well before the season had even began and months before the official announcement, Chelsea’s lack of careful attention to this matter becomes even more galling.
But, finally, at long last, we’re apparently ready to “step up efforts” in this search, as reported by both the Telegraph and the Guardian at the same time today, which is the usual smell of a club briefing.
Since Emenalo left in November, his duties had been largely covered by Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s de facto supremo on most days. She’s even covered his role as the lightning rod for general criticism. But the one role she couldn’t fulfill was to facilitate a relationship between head coach and upper management, and to be the voice of reason, to be the “football man” among all the suits. Emenalo’s departure was just one of the many reasons Conte’s relationship deteriorated so badly with the Board.
Sarri is supposed to be more amiable in this regard, but he sure wouldn’t mind having a friend in high places either, preferably one who speaks Italian. Unfortunately for him, none of the candidates mentioned by the reports are fluent in the Vulgar Latin, but chances are that any sporting director appointment will outlast the current head coach, so that’s probably not a strong concern for the club.
Names mentioned in both reports include The FA’s Director of Elite Development and former West Brom
Emenalo youth coach and sporting director, Dan Ashworth, former Chelsea players Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack, as well as Roma football director Monchi. The latter, who seems by far the most qualified, is also a target of Manchester United, who could be seeking a football director after this transfer window as well.
Chelsea have apparently waited this long to truly begin this search in order to settle the coaching situation and to not drop the new person “who might need time to feel their way into the job” straight into the middle of a transfer window. That sort of thinking could point towards the appointment of a former player like Belletti or Ballack. It certainly doesn’t sound like the new person will be an exact replacement for Emenalo, with some of his duties staying with Granovskaia and the scouting department, which has remained under the care of head scout Scott McLachlan, and whoever’s in charge of the loan program these days. Either way, the hope should be that the incoming appointment will help create a set direction and plan for the club, to replace the scatter-gun approach of the past few seasons.
Despite this briefing, don’t expect quick progress. Chelsea will wait until all the transfer windows have closed to “seriously” consider our options. We’ve waited a year already; no need to rush now.