Roberto Di Matteo has made winning look easy
It took then-midfielder Roberto Di Matteo no more than 42 seconds after the kickoff of the 1997 FA Cup final to find the back of the net, propelling Chelsea to their first FA Cup victory in 27 years. As interim manager, it took him no more than three months to help Chelsea lift the Champions League trophy for the first time ever.
That tendency for quick success is one of many reasons why Di Matteo should remain at Stamford Bridge for many years to come.
After such an improbable triumph, it came as a surprise to many when the club stalled on whether to instill Di Matteo on a more permanent basis.
Finally, on June 13, Chelsea Chief Executive Ron Gourlay announced that the club was bringing back Di Matteo for two more years.
However, the short-term contract hinted at the fact that the Chelsea brass weren’t convinced that Di Matteo’s success wasn’t a fluke. It could also have been a cautionary move in case Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola were to be on the market in a couple of years.
Regardless if they were available or not, Di Matteo is hands down the best man for the job.
Here are three reasons why.
Di Matteo helped Chelsea capture their first ever Champions League trophy
There’s only one surefire way to ensure the security of your job: win.
Since taking over for the Blues on March 4, that’s exactly what Di Matteo has done.
In 21 matches last season, Di Matteo posted a record of 14-4-3: 5-1-0 in Champions League play, 4-0-0 in FA Cup play and 5-3-3 in league play. During that stretch, Chelsea outscored opponents 43-23.
Still, a handful of analysts believed Di Matteo’s good fortunes were a direct result of beginner's luck.
As if winning the FA Cup and Champions League weren’t enough.
Di Matteo responded to his critics by leading Chelsea to an undefeated record in 10 matches. The Blues are 8-2-0—in all nonexhibition competitions—while outscoring opponents 23-6.
At 6-1-0 in league play, Chelsea are currently atop the Premier League table with a four-point lead. They are only one of two remaining undefeated teams.
Beginner's luck? Try sheer managerial talent.
In three months, Di Matteo accomplished what no other manager in Chelsea’s illustrious history has been able to do.
If he keeps it up, he might also stand alone as the greatest manager to ever have led the Blues.
Di Matteo has been a locker room favorite at Chelsea
While a happy fanbase is important, a happy locker room is essential.
Former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas witnessed that firsthand during his treacherous tenure with the club last season.
Villas-Boas disrupted the flow of the locker room, making demands and changes without really taking the players' opinions or concerns into consideration. His style of coaching resembled that of a dictatorship, which resulted in a locker-room mutiny in return.
He would be out the door soon after.
His replacement, Di Matteo, has taken a far more favorable approach.
With the season completed in triumphant form and Di Matteo’s future unclear, the players were quick to back up their then-interim manager.
It was reported that during their postgame celebration, with owner Roman Abramovich in attendance, the players chanted for Di Matteo’s return.
Players that have publicly come forth with positive feelings toward the manager include John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech.
But don’t mistake the players' love for Di Matteo as an indication of a lack of respect in the locker room.
In fact, a more likable manager’s commands are more likely to be followed much more often than those of an unfavorable manager.
Di Matteo has proven to be stern, warning players about their questionable behavior in light of the controversy surrounding Ashley Cole’s comments on Twitter. Di Matteo handed out a fine to the defender.
With the players behind Di Matteo, that can only mean good things for him and the Blues.
While many managers try desperately to relate to their players, it is often a task that is a lot easier said than done. Having past playing experience certainly helps.
Di Matteo—a former Chelsea hero—has that to his advantage.
The former Italian midfielder arrived at Stamford Bridge in 1996 following a transfer from Lazio. His £4.9 million fee was a club record at the time.
Di Matteo made 175 appearances for the Blues, tallying 26 goals. He was a key contributor in Chelsea’s resurgence during the late-'90s. He also had a knack for scoring crucial goals—he netted twice in two FA Cup finals and scored yet another goal in a League Cup final.
Teamed with Dennis Wise, Dan Petrescu and Gustavo Poyet, Di Matteo played a pivotal role in what proved to be a formidable attack.
However, his career was cut short when he suffered a triple leg fracture during a 2001 UEFA Cup fixture. He would retire soon after in 2002.
Di Matteo was a polarizing figure in Chelsea history. That kind of status demands the respect of a locker room, especially one filled with players hoping to one day be seen in the same light.
He also demonstrates a love for the club that gave him an opportunity to shine under the spotlight.
Following his retirement, Di Matteo returned for numerous promotional purposes and utilized the gym at the Cobham training grounds. The former Italian international has a love affair with the club that doesn’t look to go away any time soon.
Combine these factors together and you have a manager who is not only a good fit for the players, but also for the team.
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988