Chelsea: Why Pep Guardiola's Shadow Will Cast Doubt on Roberto Di Matteo's Reign
In a world where being first choice means everything, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo it has to feel a little jilted that he appeared to be nothing but the second choice to take the full-time job at Stamford Bridge.
The media portrayal of him as little better than the cut-rate choice to keep the seat warm for former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola must have been a hard pill to swallow. More than likely it still could be so, as the Blues gear up for their first full season under the newly-appointed, full-time boss.
Di Matteo was Chelsea's savior last season as he came in to try and mop up the mess left by Andre Villas-Boas, who had quite noticeably lost the faith of the team.
Out of pure frustration and the desire to prove themselves better than they had been all season, the Blues picked themselves up off of the floor under the guidance of Di Matteo and embarked on what would become a storybook second half.
With the former midfielder leading the club, it seemed as though nothing was impossible. Chelsea overturned their deficit to Italian side Napoli in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. Under AVB the club had slumped to a 3-1 abysmal defeat at the hands of the Neapolitans in Naples.
However, two weeks later the Blues were a different side under Di Matteo, who had restored the veteran core to their rightful places and sent out a side that ran riot on the Italians, taking a 4-1 victory and a place in the quarterfinals.
Only four days later the new manager led the club into the semifinals of the FA Cup with a 5-2 crushing of Leicester City, with Fernando Torres finally ending his goal drought with a second-half brace to help seal the victory.
Although the club’s league form was taking time to regain its effectiveness, Di Matteo looked to have made the club invincible in both the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup. Blues dispatched Portuguese club Benfica to reach a semifinal tie with defending Champions Barcelona and would knock London rivals Tottenham out of the FA Cup, booking a final berth against Liverpool.
However, the heroics did not stop there as Chelsea defeated Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate with a 1-0 victory over the Catalans at Stamford Bridge and then a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou, thanks to a late clinical Fernando Torres strike that put the club through to the Final.
Di Matteo had gotten the better of Pep Guardiola, but it appeared that later on that would not necessarily be enough.
Chelsea would next lift the FA Cup over Liverpool in a tense battle that saw the Blues win the first half but nearly succumb to a second-half fight-back by the Reds. From there it was clear to all that the only thing left to fight for was the UEFA Champions League title.
The English Premier League season was a wash as the club finished in sixth, leaving nothing but a UCL title to keep them in European action next season. As the Blues headed for Munich to face off against German giants Bayern Munich in their home stadium, the Allianz Arena, for the final of a lifetime, it was anyone’s guess as to what would happen.
It took until the final minutes of the match to see it come to life as an 83rd-minute strike from Thomas Muller put the Bavarians in front and almost home for a victory of the ages. However, the Blues weren’t done as Didier Drogba rose to the occasion and equalized with a minute remaining. Stoppage time and extra time would not matter, and Roberto Di Matteo’s Blues silenced any critics they had with a penalty shootout victory and the first European title for a London-based English club in history.
You would have thought that at that point, the full-time job at Chelsea belonged to Di Matteo, but that would not immediately prove the case. The resignation of Pep Guardiola from Barcelona after being knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea had been a major deal, but until he had finished the season with the club after winning the Spanish Copa Del Rey it didn’t seem as real.
As soon as it was possible to chase the man, Roman Abramovich was on the coat tails of Pep Guardiola as soon as he left Camp Nou.
On May 29, 2012 the Daily Mail published an article entitled “Roman Abramovich rebuilding Chelsea for Pep Guardiola’s arrival.” From there on out, the rumors of Chelsea chasing Guardiola from one side of the Chelsea managerial job to another never seemed to cease.
All the while the man who had just led the Blues to their latest FA Cup title and only UEFA Champions League title, Roberto Di Matteo, sat and waited to see if he would get the chance he so deserved to be the full-time manager.
Although BBC Sport had confirmed that the Italian would be considered for the job a week prior, it looked as though he was never truly the man wanted for the job.
Soon after, The Telegraph broke news that Guardiola wanted to sit down with Roman Abramovich and discuss a plan for him taking over at the club, but in the end it would not result in the permanent signing of the man who won a record 14 trophies with Barcelona.
With the news finally confirming that Guardiola was not going to become Chelsea’s manager, it was once again open for Roberto Di Matteo to take over. However, the insults had already started in many ways, as the 41-year-old was initially offered only a 12-month contract that made it appear he would only be signed to keep the seat warm for Guardiola, according to The Telegraph.
With that said the rebuilding of Chelsea kicked off, but despite the massive outlay of funds for the arrival of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and others sure to arrive, there is no guarantee that this is all being done for the purpose of letting Di Matteo redesign the squad.
Whatever happens from now until next May will see every decision or indecision made by Di Matteo scrutinized by the Media, who will be setting it up to look as though the Italian is gone at the end of the year to be replaced by Guardiola regardless of his success.
Even if Chelsea win another trophy and qualify for the Champions League once more, and honestly even if they win the English Premier League, there is still a chance that Abramovich opts to once more call upon Guardiola to take over the club and leave his new manager hung out to dry.
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