Chelsea: Should Di Matteo get the job now?
Roberto Di Matteo's place in Chelsea folklore was secure when he scored within seconds of the kick off in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Middlesbrough in 1997 but Saturday night's Champions League success has earned him legendary status. But will Roman Abramovich now appoint the former midfielder on a permanent basis?
When the Italian took over from Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea were going out of the Champions League and heading out of the top four. Robbie, as everyone affectionately calls him, quickly changed that. He spoke to Lampard and Drogba, players who felt like they were being forced out of the club, and told them they were vital to his plans over the next few months. They responded in style. It wasn't long before they were beating Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona in Europe and seeing off Tottenham in the FA Cup.
The turnaround in fortunes was astonishing. From a team just going through the motions, Chelsea were back to their best and had a huge slice of luck on their shoulders. The woodwork, and an 'everyone behind the ball' policy, saved them against Barca, and even the officials gave them a goal that never was against Spurs. Somebody was certainly looking down favourably on the Blues.
The Champions League Final was the Holy Grail for Roman Abramovich. The Russian oligarch had pumped more than a billion into the Stamford Bridge club and dreamt of being crowned champions of Europe. He had tried the likes of Mourinho, Grant, Scolari, Hiddink, Ancelotti to land the coveted prize. They had all failed. But step forward Di Matteo.
Chelsea entered the lion's den at the Allianz Arena, defended resolutely and beat the Germans on penalties in their own back yard. Now they know how that feels! It may not have been pretty, it may not have been good for the heart either, but that glittering prize now sitting in Chelsea's trophy room looks absolutely amazing.
But is that enough to keep Di Matteo in a job?
Rumours leading up to the game suggested that Abramovich was lining up former England coach Fabio Capello as Chelsea's next manager. The Italian has a glittering CV. He has won silverware at every domestic club and helped England qualify for two major tournaments. Capello has also had his hands on the Champions League trophy. At the time Roman wanted someone who could land him the biggest prize in the game. That has now been achieved. Will he still turn to the experienced coach now?
The sad fact is that if Abramovich, a hard-nosed businessman, has set his mind to something he rarely changes it. The Russian does not let sentiment cloud his judgement. Remember Di Matteo failed to finish in the top four. When he replaced AVB Chelsea were just three points behind Arsenal in the race for fourth. The Blues finished the season in sixth place and five points behind Spurs. But Di Matteo has now won the FA Cup, the Champions League and guaranteed the Blues will be back in Europe's top competition next season to defend their trophy. Surely Robbie deserves a chance to defend those trophies.
Di Matteo has had a fascinating managerial career. He started out at MK Dons and guided them to the play-offs but lost to Scunthorpe on penalties. West Brom snapped him up and he guided the Baggies back to the Premier League. However, after a poor run of form, chairman Jeremy Peace decided to release him and bring in the experienced Roy Hodgson. When AVB arrived from Porto he wanted someone who knew the club to come and work alongside him at Chelsea and Di Matteo got the nod. The rest, as they say, is history.
Whether Di Matteo gets the job or not, he can hold his head up high. He has won the biggest prize in the game and rival clubs would be scampering for his signature. He may not be the greatest manager in the game or even tactician, but he is a lucky one and sometimes that is more important than anything else. Will he get lucky and stay at Chelsea though? We'll have to wait and see.
If Di Matteo is relieved of his duties then the new man has monumentally huge boots to fill!
Calling all Chelsea fans. Do you think Abramovich will relent and appoint Di Matteo on a full-time basis? How does it feel to be Champions League winners? Who could possibly come in and do a better job than Di Matteo? Where does Di Matteo now stand amongst the list of Chelsea legends? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.
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