Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Mr Chelsea enjoys a glory night but might not stay for long

May 19, 2012


Roberto Di Matteo can now claim the title of “Mr Chelsea” with as much justification as any of the club’s great players of the past or indeed some of the players who on Saturday helped Chelsea become European champions for the first time.

The 41-year-old interim manager has transformed their season which ended with the most glorious success in their 107-year history as Chelsea became the first London club ever to lift the European Cup following their 4-3 penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich.

The issue now is whether his reign as interim manager ends with his departure from the club because billionaire owner Roman Abramovich wants a more glitzy big name manager, or whether this triumph, two weeks after Chelsea won the FA Cup, will persuade Abramovich that Di Matteo is the man for the job longterm.

Beaten Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes was in no doubt what Abramovich should do: “If I was the club owner I would give him a three year deal today,” he said after his side’s shattering defeat in their own stadium.

The Russian billionaire, who has invested hundreds of millions in Chelsea since he bought the club in 2003, has dreamed of winning the European Cup from the day he took control and was ecstatic as his players collected the trophy at the end of an astonishing night When he also personally lifted the trophy.

Whether Di Matteo masterminded the victory, or Chelsea rode their luck in the face of relentless Bayern pressure, is open to debate, but there is no doubt he breathed new life into a team failing badly until he took over from Andre Villas-Boas at the beginning of March.

Chelsea have now lost only three times in 21 matches since he took control and they are now officially the best team in Europe, even if they could only finish sixth in the Premier League.

A former Chelsea player, his playing career ended prematurely when he broke his leg in their colours in a UEFA Cup match in 2000 – but he set two records for them that can never be broken.

He scored the fastest ever goal in an FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium and the last goal in an FA Cup final there before the old stadium was demolished in 2000.

If he gets the chance he could even lead them back to victory in the Champions League final being staged there next year, but that depends on whether Abramovich keeps him or not.

Pep Guardiola, who has left Barcelona, Fabio Capello, who was talking to the suspended Chelsea skipper and his ex-England captain John Terry before the match, have both been mentioned as possible replacements.

Saturday night may have ended in glory for Di Matteo and Chelsea, but now the hard talking begins.

“I’m enjoying this moment,” the Italian added before being asked if he should get the job fulltime. “I won’t talk about it now.”

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