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London – Andre Villas-Boas knows he has a “massive opportunity” at Tottenham Hotspur but denied he was on a mission to restore his reputation after being sacked as Chelsea manager in March.
Speaking to reporters for the first time at the plush new £45 million Spurs training complex in north London on Wednesday, the Portuguese also accused Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich of “breaking promises”.
Bristling at suggestions that his short tenure at Stamford Bridge had been a failure, the 34-year-old did not hold back when discussing his hasty exit from Stamford Bridge.
“I respect the decision of the owner of Chelsea but I will never accept it,” he told reporters.
“I told him that it was him quitting on me when he had been so much involved in the beginning in bringing me in and he was the one who was not putting up to the things he promised.”
“I cannot assume that failure on my own, I have to disagree with you,” the former Porto coach added.
“It's never a one-person failure, I could never take it like that, there were mistakes that I have made which I have learned but the decision to terminate the project is not mine, it is a decision from the owner of Chelsea Football Club.”
Redknapp's sacking by Tottenham was a surprise after leading them to fourth place in the Premier League and only missing a Champions League berth because Chelsea took the last qualifying place as European champions.
The decision to replace Redknapp with the relatively inexperienced Villas-Boas also raised concerns among fans, some of whom regarded it as a backward step.
“It's not a mission of restoring my reputation, it's a mission to put Tottenham back on track with titles,” he said.
“I think the dimension of the club speaks for itself.
“It was a massive, massive opportunity for me and I'm extremely privileged to have been given that opportunity, so it's fantastic to come to a club which such high ambitions towards the future,” he added.
Asked if Tottenham would be title challengers, he said: “It's a proposition I put to the players on the first day that we met. We have to see, of course, whether it's realistic or not. Other squads are evolving and you can't always compete with Chelsea and Manchester City for players.”
After Villas-Boas was sacked, Roberto di Matteo took over in a caretaker role and led Chelsea to the FA Cup and Champions League double despite finishing sixth in the Premier League – a feat that hardly helped Villas-Boas's standing.
However, he said he should take some of the credit.
“For Chelsea to have won the Champions League and to have won the Cup was because we were still in those competitions,” he said. “I had the opportunity to win them cut short and I had cut short the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League when I was just three points off the fourth position.”
Villas-Boas earned a reputation for attractive football when he led Porto to silverware, including the Europa League, and despite struggling at Chelsea he said he was ready to continue the Tottenham style laid down by Redknapp.
“To lose what Harry left us is a mistake so you just have to try to build on from that, to put Tottenham on the road for titles,” said Villas-Boas, who has appointed former Spurs and Germany midfielder Steffen Freund as his assistant coach.
“I think last year was the first year that we saw so openly Tottenham publicly speak about the title and I think it's where we want to go.”
The chances of playmaker Luka Modric being part of Villas-Boas's new project, however, look slender.
The Croatian has again been linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs like Real Madrid after Tottenham resisted Chelsea's attempts to buy him last season.
“Luka's commitment was never in doubt whilst he was at Spurs, he was a player that always attracted interest while he was here because of the quality that he has,” he said.
“I think it's now up to the chairman to decide what is in the best interests of the football club.” – Reuters