Roberto Di Matteo wins right to be on Roman Abramovich"s Chelsea shortlist

Di Matteo wins right to be on Roman's shortlist of three for full-time Chelsea job

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 25 April 2012

Roman Abramovich has a powerful defence against any criticism he might receive for the way he runs Chelsea. It's something along the lines of three English titles, five domestic cups and two Champions League finals.

But he can still get it horribly wrong. He missed that epic encounter in Barcelona on Tuesday night, seemingly opting for a shopping trip in Kensington when the Champions League is supposed to be his obsession.

Did he not fancy his side's chances or did he have something more pressing to attend to We will, of course, never know, such is the secrecy that surrounds the Russian billionaire.

Nou beauty: Roberto Di Matteo celebrates Chelsea's triumph in Barcelona

Nou beauty: Roberto Di Matteo celebrates Chelsea's triumph in Barcelona

Only in the decisions he makes at Stamford Bridge do we get some insight into how the man operates and the sacking of two managers who might well have satisfied his desperate craving for the European Cup remains a source of some frustration to Chelsea supporters.

Particularly when the decision to dismiss Carlo Ancelotti a year after the Italian secured a league and cup double in his first season was compounded by the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas.

In fairness the decision to then sack the young Portuguese has proved a more astute piece of management. But Abramovich finds himself in a second Champions League final far more by accident than design.

So what happens now Does he keep the guy who got him there or does he bring in someone new, having concluded that, whatever happens in Munich on May 19, Roberto Di Matteo lacks the experience to carry out the rebuilding work required at Stamford Bridge

He clearly didn't expect Di Matteo to do as well as he has done. He was a stop-gap appointment, the 'interim' part of the job title he was given making that perfectly clear.

He was a manager who had failed at West Brom and someone who only three years ago was watching his MK Dons side lose 1-0 to Walsall. But what a remarkable job he has done, not only conquering Barcelona but Benfica before that and a Napoli side that appeared to be through to the last eight after the first leg encounter Villas-Boas had overseen.

Wanted: Roman Abramovich is known to covet Barca boss Pep Guardiola

Wanted: Roman Abramovich is known to covet Barca boss Pep Guardiola

In 15 matches in charge Di Matteo has lost only once – at Manchester City – with one of the 10 victories he has enjoyed a 5-1 defeat at Wembley that has also secured Chelsea's place in another cup final.

When Chelsea somehow produced that stunning extra time victory against Napoli, it is fair to say it probably had as much to do with a determined, defiant group of senior players as it did the tactical nous of the new man in charge.

But Barcelona was not a one-off. It was a result, and over the two legs a victory, that came at the end of run that says Di Matteo is clearly having a major influence.

'What he's done is no coincidence,' said Frank Lampard late on Tuesday night. 'He's created an atmosphere, he's got players playing, the camp's very happy and you can see that in the results.

'The results don't lie. I can't speak highly enough of him. I'm sure there's a question he doesn't know the answer to and I don't know. The club will sit down in the summer with him but I can't speak highly enough of what he's done. He's been incredible.'

Praise: Frank Lampard (centre) acknowledged Di Matteo's influence on the side

Praise: Frank Lampard (centre) acknowledged Di Matteo's influence on the side

Di Matteo impressed when it mattered most at the Nou Camp; during the half-time interval that marked the end of an astonishing first half. They still somehow had a foot in the final thanks to that stunning goal from Ramires but they had no captain, no centre-halves and only 10 men.

It was time for the manager to earn his money and he did so with some skill according to the players. He remained calm, delivering his instructions with clarity while also giving them the confidence to believe they could indeed protect their away goals advantage and progress at Barca's expense.

He told his full-backs to keep working in tandem with the midfield to break up the Barcelona play, and asked Drogba to continue to act as an extra defender when Barcelona were in possession but also be available for counter-attacks on the rare occasions Chelsea had the ball.

No wonder Di Matteo replaced the 34-year-old with Fernando Torres after 80 minutes. He was exhausted.

At the same time Di Matteo also told them to keep playing with heart and passion while convincing them to believe in his tactical strategy.

Graft: Didier Drogba ran himself into the ground to carry out Di Matteo's plan

Graft: Didier Drogba ran himself into the ground to carry out Di Matteo's plan

The irony, of course, is that the
manager he conquered this week remains the very same manager Abramovich
would most like to see in charge of Chelsea, and within a few days we
should know if Pep Guardiola is staying at the Nou Camp or going
elsewhere.

The Spanish newspapers are reporting that talks are due to take place between Guardiola and his employers in the next few days and that is thought to be how Chelsea understand the situation too.

But what if Guardiola remains out of reach and what if Jose Mourinho is telling the truth when he says he intends to stay at Real Madrid this summer Does Abramovich then turn to a Didier Deschamps, a Laurent Blanc or a Jurgen Klopp

If Mourinho or Guardiola suddenly become available, there is a decision to make. But is there any guarantee that those from the second tier of potential candidates would be more successful than Di Matteo

Final audition: But Di Matteo must send his team out in Munich without John Terry

Final audition: But Di Matteo must send his team out in Munich without John Terry

There is no set formula for managerial success. Guardiola's only experience prior to taking charge of Barcelona was running the B team, while Fabio Capello was also a coach of limited experience when he landed the AC Milan job.

Chelsea's chief executive, Ron Gourlay, said Di Matteo's future would be discussed at the end of the season, by which time he could either be going into talks empty-handed or holding two trophies.

But it would seem harsh to judge him on a Champions League final he now has to contest without John Terry, Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles.

Surely, by masterminding arguably the greatest European victory we have seen, he has already done enough to be on a shortlist of three.