by Liam McConville
Saturday night at the Allianz Arena was the culmination of years of extravagant spending from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in chasing the previously elusive European Cup. From the misery of Moscow, to the ‘ghost goal’ at Anfield and with the memory of Andres Iniesta last minute equaliser in 2009 all still fresh in Blues fans memories, this was a moment to forget what had gone before and enjoy the unlikeliest of triumphs.
For this was the redemption of a side that has grown old together, a last shot at what was for many the final piece of the jigsaw, the last medal missing from a number of glittering careers. It was a reward for the loyal Chelsea fans who endured having Ken Bates as chairman for years, who now see their side crowned champions of Europe. After having had a miserable league campaign by their standards Chelsea has turned around their season in the most dramatic way.
The revolution of Andre Villas-Boas that saw the powerful senior players spit their collective dummies out until the Portuguese was removed from his position was replaced by the calm ways of Roberto Di Matteo; a man who has seen an equally incredible turnaround in his career, from being dumped by West Brom to Champions League and FA Cup winner in fifteen months. Di Matteo was seen as somewhat of a joke figure upon his arrival, perhaps in the mould of Avram Grant following John Terry’s touchline antics for the home game against Napoli.
However the Italian has proved to be made of sterner stuff as he lifted a demoralised squad back to the heights that many an observer thought was beyond them. All the while ‘Robbie’ as he has irritatingly become known as has put in perhaps one of the strongest job applications in in recent memory. However it remains to be seen whether Abramovich sees Di Matteo as the man to bring about the much needed overhaul that is needed for Chelsea to continue to compete at this level.
It has long been known that Abramovich craves attacking football to go along with success that is a minimum requirement for any manager at Stamford Bridge. That is why the Russian’s ideal manager would surely be Pep Guardiola, a man certain to take a yearlong sabbatical following his resignation form Barcelona following a period of unprecedented success. That rules out Guardiola for now and it remains to be seen whether he would ever want the Chelsea job no matter how many Roubles Roman throws at him.
Fabio Capello was considered to be a candidate but ruled himself out of the job on Saturday; presumably the legendary Italian manager didn’t feel ready to commit to the long-term project that is needed at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps the choice of the fans before Di Matteo’s remarkable run was Jose Mourinho a man who appears committed by strengthening the empire he is building at Real Madrid for at least another season. Other rumoured candidates such as Harry Redknapp and Laurent Blanc will surely be risks who could well be spectacular failures should they be offered the job.
With the main candidates considered and with Di Matteo’s legendary status as the man who delivered Roman the Champions League, he simply must be given the job. The fact that I have even entered this debate shows the ridiculous way that Chelsea has gone about treating managers in the Abramovich era. It is always dangerous to second guess the owner’s mind as the logical decision doesn’t always translate as the decision that the Russian decides to make.
Should Di Matteo be given the job he must be ruthless or else Chelsea will fail to match the heights that they have set over the last decade. It appears that Didier Drogba may well be leaving following eight years with the club that ended with that match winning spotkick. This should be a chance to remove the deadwood currently cluttering up the Stamford Bridge dressing room. An opportunity to begin a new dawn on West London that should have happened under Villas-Boas.
The difference this time is that Di Matteo has had a chance to analyse the squad and earned the respect of the players. He must be given a long term contract with full backing that he will not be given the chop should he not deliver either the league title or Champions League title again next season.
However this campaign has been a warning, Chelsea were a couple of penalties away from falling out of Europe’s elite competition for next season and as Liverpool prove it is difficult to get back there. The lavish spending that symbolised the early Abramovich years is surely over with the upcoming Financial Fair Play regulations. Chelsea have exciting plans for a new stadium at Battersea Power Station, now is the team to break up this old, great side and usher in a new generation to continue the legacy of the likes of Terry, Lampard and Drogba.
With exciting Werder Bremen attacking midfielder Marko Marin already signed for next season and with the likes of Juan Mata and the much improved Brazilian pair of David Luiz and Ramires there is a strong nucleus for a new side to emerge. Di Matteo has earned his shot at being the man to bring about this change, I only hope that Roman remembers that feeling from Munich on Saturday and rewards the man who delivered the Holy Grail at last.