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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
The new man in the Chelsea hot seat

By John May

Avram Grant stands behind Jose Mourinho
Grant stood behind Mourinho, but now lords it over Chelsea
New Chelsea boss Avram Grant is all things to all men, especially if they are Russian billionaires.

Take your pick between peacemaker and agent provocateur; spy in the camp, or aide-de-camp; lurking presence, or reassuring hand on the shoulder; a king in waiting or a faithful retainer.

Since his arrival in English football as Portsmouth's director of football, he has at various times been perceived as any or all of the above.

What is not in doubt is his coaching ability and a football brain that has attracted the admiration of some of the richest men in football.

A DIFFERENT VIEW

Yoav Borowitz, a sports writer for Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz, said: "It's almost unbelievable that he's the manager of Chelsea."

The picture he paints of Grant is of somebody with very similar qualities and ethos as Mourinho.

He knows how to treat star players, and a lot of players like him, he treats them well

Yoav Borowitz, Israeli sports journalist

If Mourinho was under pressure to introduce a style and swagger into Chelsea's play, it appears they may not see that under Grant, according to Borowitz.

"Grant is very successful at implementing his philosophy, he's a talented football coach, and a very intelligent individual, sometimes too intelligent for his own good," says Borowitz.

"He knows how to treat star players, and a lot of players like him - he treats them well.

"His biggest fear is losing and although he was successful in Israel, he took some criticism for the negativity of his teams.

"When he was national coach, we went through a World Cup qualifying campaign unbeaten, but while drawing 1-1 with France was a good result, there were games Israel should have won.

"He's not an Arsene Wenger type of manager - he doesn't care a lot for the aesthetics of the game, he just doesn't want to get beaten."

GRANT IN ENGLAND

Grant quit the Israeli national team post on expiry of his contract in 2006 to become Portsmouth's technical director, his path paved by Alexander Gaydamak, who had bought a controlling interest from Milan Mandaric.

Grant came recommended by Gaydamak's father, Arcady, who owns Beitar Jerusalem, but his appointment was not made in consultation with Pompey boss Harry Redknapp.

I wasn't pleased when he was brought but I soon realised he isn't the kind of man to spy on you for the owner

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp

The Israeli's stay on the south coast was a relatively short one, and although Redknapp did not appear to shed too many tears when Grant left for Chelsea he expressed a liking and grudging respect for him.

Redknapp admitted: "I wasn't pleased when he was brought in at Portsmouth without my knowledge, but I soon realised he isn't the kind of man to spy on you for the owner."

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich raised eyebrows and questions when he appointed Grant.

Whatever Abramovich's motives, the fact he and Grant were personal friends was always seen as tantamount to an act of provocation to Mourinho, who sought to mark out his territory immediately.

"From my point of view, it won't interfere with the power I have in relation to my job," said a defiant Mourinho when Grant arrived at Stamford Bridge.

SUCCESS AT HOME

Grant certainly put in the hard miles in his homeland Israel, not exactly renowned as one of world football's powerhouses.

After beginning at home-town club Hapoel Petah-Tikvah, he won the Israeli title twice during a first spell at Maccabi Tel-Aviv. A second spell proved less successful.

606: DEBATE

He found success again by heading north up the coast to Maccabi Haifa, where he ended the club's seven-year itch by winning the Israeli title with a side which included a young Yossi Benayoun, and a young Nigerian striker named Aiyegbeni Yakubu.

Maccabi repeated their title success, but when the national team came calling Grant answered.

The nadir of a disappointing Euro 2004 campaign was a 2-2 draw with Malta which prompted calls for Grant's head.

But in a tough World Cup qualifying campaign Grant again showed his coaching pedigree, by almost guiding Israel to the finals for the first time since 1970.

He showed his talents for organising a defence as Israel finished unbeaten but third in the group, behind France and Switzerland.

The question now is whether those talents will be enough to keep in the Chelsea hot seat in the long term.

SEE ALSO
What next for Mourinho?
20 Sep 07 |  Chelsea
Reaction to Mourinho's exit
20 Sep 07 |  Chelsea
Mourinho in his own words
20 Sep 07 |  Fun and Games
Comment: Jose will be missed
20 Sep 07 |  Football
Mourinho in photos
20 Sep 07 |  Chelsea
Mourinho issues warning to Grant
12 Jul 07 |  Chelsea


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