Bruno Saltor takes charge of Chelsea for Monday’s game against Liverpool admitting he has never actually picked a football team before. The Spanish former right-back went into coaching after injury ended his career at Brighton and has always been on Graham Potter’s backroom staff.
But after Sunday's shock decision to move swiftly to axe the 47-year-old Potter following the defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday, Bruno has been left in the firing line while Chelsea kickstart their recruitment process. And he takes charge for the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s troubled Liverpool.
Prime candidates such as Julian Nagelsmann and Mauricio Pochettino are already out of work, but indications from the west London club are that they are keen to take their time over an appointment. With Potter’s assistant Billy Reid, who has nine years of experience managing in Scotland, also leaving the club, it means rookie Bruno could also be in charge for the daunting prospect of next week’s trip to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid for their Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Bruno said at his first ever press conference: “I have been coaching for four years and have been coaching under Graham. Obviously he has been the manager and he always had the last word.
“It’s quite clear that it’s not been the case that I have picked a team. Tomorrow is going to be the first time. I feel good. It is my duty. A duty and a responsibility. I am at a really important club and I want to try my best.”
It’s like giving the keys of the Lamborghini to a learner. Then telling them they’re racing against Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in their first three laps. Bruno faces a baptism of high-octane-fuelled fire when he begins his managerial career with a trio of fixtures that include Liverpool and Real Madrid - two of the three most-decorated clubs, boasting 20 Champions League trophies between them.
As a result, fingers are increasingly being pointed at the man who has engineered this entire situation - Boehly. He has been left carrying the can in his role as the front man of the consortium who bought out the club in the chaos of the final days of the Roman Abramovich era once the illegal war on Ukraine had started.
And it is in danger of blowing up in his face. Every step of the process since their £4.25bn takeover has been at odds with THE expectation of the wider football world. Boehly inherited a Champions League winner in Thomas Tuchel and sacked him within four months.
Long-termism was to be the watchword at the club in a sport with infamously little patience, as he lectured a notoriously conservative sport on how it should be run. Vast sums were spent on Players “for the future” and given long, long contracts in a Financial Fair Play dodge that was presented as clever but could hamstring Chelsea’s performance in the transfer market for years to come.
And they sold next to nobody. It left the club with an unwieldy group of prima donna stars vying for places in a first-team line-up Potter could not settle on. Yet Boehly continued to back his manager through these unconvincing performances.
In his rare didactic briefings, Boehly - whose sporting experience comes from owning the LA Dodgers - would speak of the Premier League’s failure to embrace his more stable approach of management. Then late Sunday night, Potter was unceremoniously dispensed with.
It certainly caught the club’s media department by surprise, who just hours before had called a press conference in his name for the very next day to preview the Liverpool game. Players, too, were bewildered.
Regardless of whether Potter deserved his shot at Champions League glory having negotiated a path to the last eight, there were simply no perceivable benefits to getting rid of him. There were no other candidates in the wings waiting to take charge - just that vacuum of experience.
Even Bruno seemed embarrassed at his press conference in anticipation of his first meeting with the Players. Chelsea seemed to be idling, stuck back in first gear. “We've got an afternoon session planned,” he said. “I'm going to see them now. I'm going to speak to them. The responsibility is all of us.
“We are responsible and we have to keep it positive, try to focus on the next game and that's the energy we're working with.” Boehly’s desire to usher in his more professional modern era seemed to lie in tatters.
At least Abramovich could handle a mid-season managerial departure. When Luiz Felipe Scolari didn’t work out, he brought in Guus Hiddink on a temporary basis - a European Cup winner no less. Andre Villas-Boas went. Roberto Di Matteo came in and made the whole of Chelsea Champions League winners.
Rafa Benitez was another Champions League stand-in, even if the Stamford Bridge crowd were never that much ‘interim’. Tuchel repeated Di Matteo’s feat when he replaced Frank Lampard mid-term. Abramovich was quick to sack ‘em, but he knew how to pick ‘em when it came to appointing replacements. Right now, Boehly, for all his bright new vision, is flailing in the dark.