LONDON: Events are conspiring to see Roberto Di Matteo confirmed as Chelsea manager for at least one more season. But he will have to manage the defence of the Champions League and achieve a surge up the Premier League without the man who made his continuance possible, Didier Drogba.
Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich, his advisers and directors have not discussed the managerial vacancy formally for at least six weeks. But Di Matteo’s surprise success has forced Abramovich into a reconsideration of his original scheme.
After Andre Villas-Boas failed to get his rebuilding project off the ground, Abramovich is understood to have decided that Pep Guardiola was the only man capable. At that time Guardiola was still thinking over his future at Barcelona. Subsequently his decision to take a year’s sabbatical and Di Matteo’s masterpiece in Munich opened up the prospect of the Swiss/Italian being handed a one-year contract.
Di Matteo will head for a holiday in the Caribbean after playing in a midweek charity golf tournament near London and no decision will be made before he flies out. Thus it will be at least another fortnight before Chelsea resolve the issue.
Chief executive Ron Gourlay, confirming a refusal to allow Saturday’s excitement to rush the club into a hasty decision, said: “I know the fans will be pushing for Robbie but we’re not jumping into anything rash. We will look at the season, look at what worked for us, look at the mistakes we made and then take it forward.
“We have to sit down over the next week or two or however long it takes because we’ve got to do what is right for the football club.”
Drogba, man of the match in Munich, has confirmed that the penalty kick which beat Bayern was his last kick of the ball for Chelsea. The 34-year-old Ivorien is out of contract this summer. He and his advisers have already turned down the club’s offer for a two-year contract extension.
Various better offers of a last contract are on the table from clubs in China, Qatar, Russia and the United States. He had been expected to team up with Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua but this is less certain after his ex-Chelsea team-mate threatened to quit the club after a row with the management.
The impending departure of Drogba is one reason why Chelsea appear to have ignored an outburst from Fernando Torres in Munich. After the match the depressed Spaniard told a Spanish newspaper that not starting the game had been “the biggest disappointment of my career.”
Drogba’s exit would open the way for Torres to make the centre-forward role his own though Chelsea are among Premier League clubs considering an offer for Atletico de Madrid’s Radamel Falcao. The Colombian has been top scorer in the Europa League for the past two seasons.
Another Chelsea player to vent his frustration in the media is 19-year-old Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku who made only one Premier League appearance all season after his £18m arrival from Anderlecht.
Lukaku said: “I will never forgive the previous coach [Villas-Boas] for what he did to me. It was the way he spoke to me and treated me, right from the beginning. It was weird. I understand he was under pressure but I was also thinking of myself. Now I have improved in recent months.”
Villas-Boas is a contender – along with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez – for the job at Liverpool left vacant by the sacking of Kenny Dalglish. So far the Anfield club’s American owners have had proposals for “talks” turned down by Brendan Rodgers (Swindon) and Frank De Boer (Ajax).
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