— In these days of economic recession and financial fair play it defies commercial logic that football clubs still hire and fire so freely. Chelsea, however, appear to have found the answer right under their nose almost by accident or without realising it.

The caretaker. More formally known as ‘interim manager’ to offer dignity of status in an image-obsessed era when titles are almost more important than the nature of the job.

Taking care of Chelsea: Roberto DiMatteo and (insets) Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink

Consider: Guus Hiddink, a caretaker, guided Chelsea to FA Cup victory; Avram Grant, a caretaker, took them to within one penalty of winning the Champions League; and now Roberto Di Matteo has brought them to the FA Cup Final and to within one match of the Champions League Final.

Elsewhere Ricardo Sa Pinto has brought Sporting Clube of Lisbon to within one game of the Europa League Final and Stuart Pearce – whatever he may say in public (which, sensibly now, isn’t a lot) – must wonder about Euro 2012 as the clock ticks on with the FA paralysed by fears of upsetting the Premier League run-in.

Think of the money caretakers save. No severance negotiations over contracts with two or three years left on them. Just a quick turnover at bargain rates.

No financial legacy long after the latest victim has picked up his trainers and driven out of the training centre gates for the last time.

Internazionale, at one stage, were thought to have had no fewer than five coaches on the payroll: the man in the job and his four, paid-off predecessors. Who knows? They may still be paying lire equivalent into the estate of the late Helenio Herrera and he left the club for the third and last time back in the 1970s.

Those were the days when Brazil were at their World Cup-conquering best under the management of Mario Zagallo. Now Zagallo is considering a caretaker comeback of his own.

Zagallo, despite being 80, is a leading compromise candidate for the role of senior vice-president of the Brazilian football confederation. The vacancy arose after Jose Maria Marin took over the presidency following the long-overdue departure of scandal-enshrouded Ricardo Teixeira.

This is a delicate time for Brazilian football, little more than two years away from its hosting of the 2014 World Cup. A wide array of politicians appear to be doing their level best to evade, as much as they can, the hosting guarantees given so cavalierly to FIFA by the previous government of President Lula.

Nothing and nobody is safe. This also applies to national coach Mano Menezes. Marin has indicated that unless Brazil win gold at London 2012 then Menezes can look for a new job.

In that context, Zagallo has mused that his experience “might be of use” to the national coach in the run-up to 2014. Zagallo did not speculate further about who that coach might be.

Just for the record: no caretaker manager has ever won the World Cup


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