Almost everyone assumed Chelsea had appointed Avram Grant as manager on a short-term basis, and they were proved right on Saturday.
Chelsea fired the unheralded Israeli coach three days after the club lost to Manchester United in the Champions League final.
Despite signing a four-year contract when he succeeded the popular Jose Mourinho in September, Grant’s position had been subject to speculation all season — despite guiding the Blues to second place in the Premier League and their first ever Champions League final.
Rumors of bust ups with players and the perception that he was tactically limited continually detracted from Grant’s formidable record on the field, and Wednesday’s defeat on penalty kicks to United in Moscow seems to have settled his fate.
Although Chelsea played arguably their most entertaining soccer of the season at Luzhniki Stadium, the club terminated Grant’s contract following two days of discussions.
“Everybody at Chelsea FC would like to thank Avram for his contribution since taking over as manager last September,” the club said in a statement. “We will now be concentrating all our efforts on identifying a new manager for Chelsea and there will be no further comment until that appointment is made.”
Always seen as a temporary replacement due to his lack of topflight experience, the rumors continued even after he guided the club to within two points of United in the Premier League.
Frank Rijkaard, Sven-Goran Eriksson and, most recently, Brian Laudrup and Roberto Mancini have all been linked with the club as owner Roman Abramovich reportedly seeks a coach to bring the club titles and a more exciting style of play.
Despite losing just one more Premier League match after a defeat to United in his first game, Grant attracted criticism from fans and commentators, who argued that he should have been able to encourage more entertaining soccer from his squad of star players.
He was also criticized for losing February’s League Cup final to Tottenham despite having a far more experienced, talented and highly paid team than his rival.
In that match Chelsea captain John Terry and assistant coach Steve Clarke gave the team talk ahead of extra time, while Grant provided what would be a damning and lasting image of his stewardship as he strolled about the edge of the Wembley field scratching his head.
And Terry led a revolt against his manager several weeks ago after Grant banished defender Tal Ben Haim to train with the youth team for publicly saying he joined Chelsea to play for Mourinho — not his successor.