May 20, 2012, 1:33 PM EDT
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has conceded that Roberto Di Matteo is a “serious” candidate for Chelsea’s permanent manager position. That’s awfully nice of the club, considering the 41-year-old Italian just guided the club to their first Champions League. The Telegraph has more, but there are a couple of factors that the piece doesn’t mention which could steer the Blues in another direction.
During the buildup to Munich, it became known that the Chelsea office felt di Matteo had gone off script. When he replaced André Villas-Boas, Di Matteo was told about the importance of finishing fourth in the Premier League, thereby qualifying for next season’s Champions League. That Chelsea failed to do so, finishing sixth, is damning enough. For di Matteo to actively de-prioritize the goal is another thing altogether. While the choice made sense to us – allocating his best players to Champions League – it may have been in defiance of his bosses.
Then there’s the stylistic concern. The way in which Chelsea won Champions League may not win di Matteo points with the owner. Undoubtedly, Roman Abramovich is happy his decade in charge has finally brought him a European title, but Chelsea’s owner has always wanted his club’s ambition to be reflected in their play (as well as their results). Recently, and somewhat comically, there’ve been reports of Chelsea wanting a more Barcelona-esque approach. Where getting to that level would be the result of a long process,s the way Di Matteo approached Real Madrid and Bayern Munich could be seen as a step back.
And at some point, Chelsea needs to rebuild. They’re champions of Europe, but nobody’s under any illusion they’re the best team in England, let along UEFA. Finishing top four next year’s got to be considered slightly improbable, at this point. There’s reason to rebuild now, if not take more steps toward transitioning from the John Terry era. Di Matteo’s hiring would implicitly be an affirmation of 2011-12, where a Villas-Boas-led rebuild was rejected. Putting off tomorrow worked today, but at some point soon, Chelsea has to move on.
Buck said Di Matteo will know his fate “sooner rather than later,” claiming the interim manager “has done an amazing job” and has earned “serious consideration.” Something he could have said, if Chelsea were looking to keep him: We hope Roberto Di Matteo will be with us for the foreseeable future. It’s not an uncommon sentiment to express, even if somebody’s future’s in doubt. But Buck went in another direction. Read into that what you will.
With a Champions League title on his record, Di Matteo won’t have any problems finding another job. He could probably have Lazio’s if he wants, but until Abramovich decides whether Chelsea’s cup-Europe double is enough, Di Matteo’s in limbo.
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