Di Matteo Jumps from Sinking Chelsea Ship with Gentle Push from Abramovich

Mark Tidey@@marktideyFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2012

Is that the way out?
Is that the way out?Claudio Villa/Getty Images

I am not a Chelsea supporter. Far from it!

I do, however, have a certain amount of sympathy today for those who are.

Once again, their megalomaniac, self-obsessed owner has shown what a liability he is when it comes to running a football club.

Officially, Roberto Di Matteo may have jumped ship after Chelsea’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Juventus Tuesday night but, in reality, we all know differently don’t we?

The Italian obviously anticipated the inevitable and probably wanted to escape with his dignity intact.

What a miserable failure he has been.

Having rescued the Blues from a disastrous run under Andre Villas-Boas last season, he managed to lead them to an FA Cup final victory and, sensationally and against all expectations, a first-ever Champions League trophy for the club.

Only a few weeks ago Chelsea were looking pretty awesome in the Premier League and had had a reasonable, if not sensational, start to their Champions League campaign.

Even after Tuesday night’s result, Chelsea would still progress if they beat the whipping boys of their group, Nordsjaelland and Juventus lose away to Shakhtar Donetsk—both entirely feasible results.


Nevertheless, this was not acceptable to Chelsea’s Russian dictator, who demands standards so high and so unrealistic that you wonder if there is a manager on this planet who would survive more than a season or two under him.

Even the Special One, Jose Mourinho, lasted only three years before he was informed that the board no longer required his services. An argument with Abramovich about the signing of Andriy Shevchenko didn’t help, nor did Roman’s appointment of Avram Grant as director of football.

However, it was probably more to do Mourinho’s paltry record of one FA Cup, two League Cups, one Community Shield and two Premier League titles in his three years in charge that was patently insufficient to satisfy Abramovich’s apparently insatiable desire for trophies and ultimate world domination.

When Avram Grant succeeded the SO and only managed to reach the finals of the League Cup and the Champions League, the toys really came out of the pram and Abramovich’s knee-jerking resumed.

It has continued since with AVB and now the sacrificial Di Matteo, whom, one feels, would have met this fate unless he had won every trophy Chelsea competed for.

It appeared that it was only public and player power—something that has never bothered Abramovich before—that got the Italian the job in the first place.


What is such a shame is that Abramovich, in the selfish act of indulging his own personal fantasy, is ridiculing a club supported so passionately by so many.

He is obviously a man who, in the business world is used to getting his own way and only accepts being No. 1 in everything he does.

Football is not like that.

The best team doesn’t always win (e.g. Chelsea beating Barcelona and then Bayern Munich—unbelievable!). Appointing a manager who has been successful before is not an automatic route to future success (e.g. AVB) and throwing vulgar amounts of money at it doesn’t necessarily guarantee titles (e.g. Torres and others).

It is interesting to think that if he had been the owner of Manchester United when Sir Alex (or just plain Alex then) Ferguson took over, the football world would have missed out on 26 years of unbridled success.

After the start he made, Ferguson would have been out on his ear before the first season ended and his knighthood would have been a distant dream.

Personally, I can’t see why anyone would want the job.

Rafael Benitez, who was appointed as interim manager on Wednesday, is being set up (unfortunate choice of words) to take over in the short term till the end of the season.

I would say that is worthy of a long-service medal in the Abramovich era.

If Pep Guardiola takes over next season, which now seems to be a distinct possibility, he is in for a tough ride.

And if he found it stressful at Barcelona, he ain't seen nothing yet!


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