The common adage, ‘you’re only as good as your last job’, may border upon cliché but in the case of Roberto Di Matteo the saying is extremely poignant. Having led Chelsea to FA Cup and Champions League glory the Italian should be considered one of the hottest properties in Europe at the moment if the saying held true. It is therefore somewhat irksome that the Stamford Bridge board of directors remain sceptical over his credentials. Yet they of course have their eyes firmly trained on Pep Guardiola for the vacant managerial role, but with the Spaniard set to take a sabbatical once he relinquishes control of Barcelona at the end of this season, Chelsea are looking into a 12-month period devoid of a truly permanent manager.
It is understandable why the west-Londoners are so intent on capturing Guardiola. In just four years he became Barcelona’s most successful manager ever, amassing an amazing 13 trophies with the possibility to add one more in Friday’s Copa del Rey final. Not only is his success tangible in the form of medals, but it is also in the abstract as he conducted an attractive style of football that has put the Catalan giants among the greatest sides to have ever played the game. His continual willingness to advance youth graduates into the first team has also warranted much praise.
Despite this season’s successes the Blues now find themselves in an unprecedented quandary. They want to appoint a new manager before next season, but their primary target is out of the picture. It is no secret that that is the case and so the next permanent manager will undoubtedly be looking at a short-term contract.
Having masterminded the team to the double this season, Di Matteo could not have done any more to stake his claim for the role. But if the club choose to only table a one-year deal, it would simply be suggesting that the Italian prolong his interim position until Guardiola becomes available. While Di Matteo may want greater security if he was to accept, and though there may be interest from elsewhere, no club with a reputation to compete with Chelsea’s will come knocking.
The Daily Mail have reported that Fabio Capello would be interested in taking on a one-year contract at the Bridge, though the cost of such a deal would no doubt prove far greater than any offer to his fellow Italian. Either way, another 12 months of uncertainty is likely to only hinder a club that has struggled to move on since the departure of Jose Mourinho. Fans and players alike would be happy for Di Matteo be handed the job for the long term, rather than wait and faun over the possibility of Guardiola joining a year down the line.
The departure of Didier Drogba shows the club are willing to move forward and forge a new era at Stamford Bridge. However, if they fail to put the speculation and rumours aside with a long-term, permanent appointment, Chelsea risk stagnating further and being pushed to the peripheries of Champions League contention next season. Appointing the 41-year-old Italian will create a positive attitude at the club and could bring about a new way of thinking, with a club icon taking charge and promoting home-grown talent, though that remains somewhat of a distant mirage for Chelsea fans.
Some have suggested that it was luck and others that it was the transfer of power back to the players that revitalised the team under Di Matteo, but the fact is that he was the man to bring home the Champions League trophy that Roman Abramovich so fervently craved. A lack of credentials did not worry the Russian when he appointed Avram Grant as manager back in 2007 and so there is another adage that Chelsea could now do well to abide by; the classic ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.