Chelsea should lean into the Neymar ‘circus’ under Boehly and Pochettino
Newcastle don’t need the Neymar ‘circus’ but it could work spectacularly at Chelsea under Todd Boehly, who’s changing things whether the fans like it or not.
You can imagine how the conversation went – through an intermediary – between Thomas Tuchel inside the Chelsea dressing room and Todd Boehly outside at half-time of their clash with West Ham in September.
Boehly had a couple of children in tow to meet their heroes, who would go on to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge but were drawing 0-0 at the time. The American owner wanted to show off his assets to the kids, which sounds only slightly worse than the reality of taking children into a dressing room of grown men being shouted at by another grown man as they get Deep Heat massaged into their thighs.
They would have entered to utter confusion from the Chelsea players and staff. It’s a widely accepted part of American team sports that fans, journalists, whoever, could enter a dressing room to converse with star players; it’s lovely really. But it doesn’t happen in England, particularly not in football, where the dressing room is a safe place where routine is everything, superstitions are rife, and distractions are the enemy.
Tuchel told Boehly to do one and was sacked four days later, before the situation changed under yes man Graham Potter. The Chelsea owner would come and go as he pleased, mainly to point out how sh*t the players he’s bought have been, but there’s no need to go into his numerous and wide-ranging mistakes again.
On first thought it makes sense to keep the players separate from the owner and others who may appreciate a look behind the curtain, but would the idea of getting rid of that barrier, perhaps not all the time, be such a bad thing for Chelsea and football in general? Why not allow fans better opportunities to meet the players and give them better matchday experiences?
We’re playing devil’s advocate to an extent here, and the idea of turning Chelsea Football Club into some sort of zoo or theme park is enough to turn the stomach.
But we’re not talking about fans arriving in their droves with blue candy floss and balloons of Mykhaylo Mudryk and Enzo Fernandez’s disproportioned faces, with fast-track lines to get to the dressing room quicker. Edouard Mendy’s not going to be permanently stationed in goal somewhere in the depths of Stamford Bridge for kids to play ‘Beat The Champions League Winner’. Bumper cars in the trophy room with Paulo Ferreira on safety announcements would be undeniably brilliant but in poor taste.
Even the slightest lurch towards Hollywood could alienate the ‘legacy fans’, who remember a time before the money, back when things were good and the football was actually much worse. When it was football, proper football, not all this other nonsense. But a lot of those people are so averse to change that there’s no reasoning with them.
Todd Boehly hasn’t bought Chelsea to keep it the same, and given they’ve (hopefully) hit rock bottom in his first season, the idea of turning Chelsea into a “circus” – which as a concept sounds terrible – may work out spectacularly for a club that’s being doing things differently for years.
Chelsea have hired and fired managers and won everything on multiple occasions. There’s a sense that this is a club that doesn’t play by the rules of football, and while Boehly wants to change things, Chelsea’s history of being separate from the herd may continue to stand them in good stead.
Asked about reports linking Neymar to Newcastle, Gary Neville said those rumours would “scare me to death”.
“Eddie Howe doesn’t need a circus up here. You think about what Newcastle are at this moment in time, they’re building, they’ve got foundations. What you don’t want to do is basically go and disrupt that. Fans are really behind the team they’re behind the manager, there’s a sort of a spirit building.”
None of that applies to Chelsea. Foundations? Nope. Disruptions? Already there. Fans behind the team? Absolutely not. Behind the manager? Come on. Team spirit? At an all-time low.
Neymar has a reputation for being a bit of a berk. He knows he’s very good at football, lives lavishly (as most people who earn ludicrous sums of money do), and plays for Paris Saint-Germain. Those are his crimes.
But the perception the majority of people in England hold of Neymar is completely at odds with the views of the man about to take the helm at Stamford Bridge. “It’s so easy with Neymar because you don’t need to do too much,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “From day one, he’s been very open to work. He’s very humble, he listens and always accepts all the instructions in a very good way.”
There’s also The Brand of Neymar, which will be enough to make the Carefree spit out their celery, but is something an owner who’s spent £600m on new players, is looking for new football clubs to buy and talks of All-Star games, is definitely thinking about. His signing would provide huge sponsorship opportunities and grow the fanbase more than anyone in the club’s history.
And he’s not Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar is still at the top of his game. He’s got 18 goals and 17 assists in 29 appearances this term – a goal contribution every 67 minutes. And those of you pedalling ‘farmer’s league’ nonsense may remember his outstanding goal against Croatia in the World Cup quarter-final. He would immediately become Chelsea’s best forward and arguably their best player.
It would be a “circus” in the sense that Chelsea would receive a hell of a lot more media attention, but what’s the problem with that? He’s a wonderful footballer, who scores and creates goals, leads by example and would provide huge revenue for a club in need of it.
Think Cirque du Soleil rather than the circus that leaves a sea of used syringes and broken hearts when they pack up and leave. Roll up, roll up, Neymar and Chelsea are in town.