Di Matteo in contention for permanent Chelsea job after impressive audition
21:30 GMT, 28 March 2012
Roberto Di Matteo has emerged as a contender to take over at Chelsea full-time after guiding the team to within 90 minutes of the Champions League semi-finals.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has recognised Di Matteo’s impact on the team since he replaced Portuguese project Andre Villas-Boas and is considering a full-time promotion at the end of the season.
Various other candidates have been put to Abramovich by leading agents since the dismissal of Villas-Boas, but Di Matteo is now among the front-runners for one of the most precarious positions in world football.
Main man: Roberto Di Matteo (right) is a contender for the Chelsea job
Traditionally Abramovich has recruited football’s next big thing to become his next manager, but Di Matteo has impressed the Russian owner with short-term results.
Chelsea are booked in at Wembley to face Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final next month, are one step away from the Champions League semi-final and have not given up hope of finishing fourth in the league.
Although Di Matteo refuses to talk publicly about succeeding Villas-Boas in the long term, he wants the chance to map out Chelsea’s future alongside his preferred first team coach Eddie Newton.
Bond: Di Matteo and Frank Lampard
Chelsea officials have been impressed with his managerial strategy and his relationship with senior, influential players is strong.
Villas-Boas’ downfall was his failure to communicate with the dressing room when he dropped star names from the side.
Di Matteo has not been afraid to take risks by leaving out big names, notably for the 1-0 win against Benfica, but has the respect of the squad because he reasoned with the sidelined players in advance.
Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, all on the bench on Tuesday, still played a full and enthusiastic part in the squad’s planning and preparations for the quarter-final first leg.
Di Matteo has changed the training ground environment and is still convinced the team can overhaul Tottenham for fourth spot in the Barclays Premier League.
Abramovich concedes that the squad does not have the strength of European heavyweights Real Madrid or Chelsea’s potential Champions League semi-final opponents Barcelona.
If Di Matteo guides Chelsea into the last four, his tactical acumen against either Milan or Barcelona over two legs could be enough to seal the deal.
That winning feeling: Chelsea celebrate scoring against Benfica in Lisbon
Abramovich has been targeting a manager who can not only unite the first team dressing, but also wants to recruit a coach who has succession-planning in place for Chelsea’s ageing squad.
He will hire a manager capable of identifying top young talent for Chelsea and also someone who can bridge the sizeable gap between the academy and the first team.