Doom for Blues, new dawn for Spurs

IT'S hard to know which set of fans is losing more sleep: Spurs' at the prospect of losing their manager and the break-up of their best team in 50 years, or Chelsea's, who fear they might lose everything. Meanwhile, Arsenal fans look on, barely able to wipe the schadenfreude off their faces.

You'd have to say it's the Blues who have a deeper sense of impending doom: managers and players are replaceable but Roman Abramovich is not. With over £1.5 billion (RM7.99 billion) already ploughed in and another billion earmarked for the new stadium, the prospect of his departure has always been Chelsea's worst nightmare.

Now that has become alarmingly real since his visa difficulties have persuaded him to mothball plans for a new stadium. The Russian's decision is perfectly understandable if he's not allowed into the country. But where does that leave Chelsea?

They were already in a mess before the nightmare scenario loomed. Their manager is desperate for a payoff, his chosen replacement's club are demanding a payoff and their star players want to take off.

Abramovich will not want to leave them in the lurch – it would damage his own reputation as well as Chelsea's. But without both his bankrolling and a new stadium, it is hard to see how they can remain as one of Europe's super-clubs.

As everyone at Stamford Bridge was aware, the owner's days as the ultimate Sugar Daddy had ended long before Spygate put an unexpected spanner in the works.

His interest had waned and transfer funds had been cut. But he saw the stadium as a way of making the club self-sustaining by boosting match-day revenues to the levels of their rivals.

Chelsea called it a "cathedral of football" and it was meant to be a permanent legacy of Abramovich's contribution to the club and to football in Britain. But there were problems even before the Russian said "nyet".

The search for a site was botched and the complexity of building on the present ground meant that Chelsea would have had to use Wembley as a home for four seasons – while Spurs needed only one. But even that was thrown into doubt by Wembley's possible sale.

At least the Blues won't have any "curse" to worry about and their fans will not need to trek across the capital, but these will be no consolation for the doomsday situation they could soon be facing.

Chelsea were bankrupt when Abramovich arrived and, although a decent cup team who had a few flair players, they had never threatened to become one of Europe's giants.

That all changed with 15 trophies in 15 years, but with just a 41,000 capacity and a possible ownership vacuum, it could change again – in the opposite direction.

First Antonio Conte has to be put out of his misery or given a proper budget. And big names must be bought or wantaways Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata and Thibaut Courtois will leave. Right now, you wouldn't bet against an interim manager, a mass exodus and a slide down the table.

They used to say that the only buyer for Chelsea would be another oligarch but with the crackdown, even that door has closed. Blue is not the colour but they may have to look further east.

Compared to all that, Real Madrid making eyes at Mauricio Pochettino can be brushed off. Yes, Real tend to get their man and he did say, "When Real Madrid call, you have to listen".

But Poch has just signed a new five-year contract that doesn't include a release clause. He has an excellent relationship with chairman Daniel Levy and it is inconceivable that the Madrid job - or any other job - was never discussed.

The Argentine has also reiterated – at last week's book launch in Spain no less – that he was "genuinely happy and excited" to be at Spurs. To do an about-turn now would seriously damage his credibility and make future suitors wary. And he would need future suitors – Real Madrid is only ever a short-term posting as Zinedine Zidane has shown.

Poch may well end up at Madrid one day and even ticks the box of having declared that Barcelona is one of two clubs he would never manage. His career at Catalan rivals Espanyol explains that just as it rules out Arsenal.

Of course, the fear for Spurs fans is that if Poch's head were to be turned, he wouldn't be the only one leaving. They're terrified that the side he has built and brought to the cusp of glory would disintegrate with big name departures.

Well-known for being paid a lot less than their counterparts elsewhere, Spurs players have mostly bought into the current project. Next season they will be playing in a spanking new stadium with a capacity of 61,000, and see this as the dawning of a new golden era.

More funds are needed to complete a team to match the surroundings but this is something on which the manager himself has been assured before agreeing to stay on. If a couple of big buys are made, you feel the exodus will be minimal.

For those worried why Poch has not already given Madrid the brush-off, consider this: if he does think he'll end up there one day, he has to do it politely. And he did warn them: "Be careful, Daniel Levy bites."

He is smart enough to know that he's on to a good thing at Spurs and a few years and trophies later, he could be in even greater demand. To go now and clear up the mess – for it is a mess despite the third European Cup in a row (!) – he risks becoming just another Madrid cast-off – and maybe still without a trophy.

So Arsenal fans, with both manager and stadium sorted, may chuckle at Chelsea's expense, but they won't be reinstating St Totteringham's Day any time soon.