Chelsea Sack Champions League-Winning Manager Roberto Di Matteo
Chelsea have parted company with manager Roberto Di Matteo after a run of five games without a win. Qualification from their Champions League group rests in the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk, who need to beat Juventus in their final Group E game for the Blues, who must defeat Nordsjaelland in their final game, to stand any chance of defending their title.
Roman Abramovich has now seen off eight managers in his nine years as owner of Chelsea FC.
In 2003, Claudio Ranieri lasted one season under the Russian before being replaced by Jose Mourinho. Mourinho had two-and-a-half seasons at the Bridge, during which time he won back-to-back Premier League titles, two Carling Cups, the FA Cup and the Community Shield. He was replaced in the September of his third season by Avram Grant, who took Chelsea to their first Champions League final in Moscow, where they lost on penalties to Manchester United.
Luiz Felipe Scolari came next, only to be sacked in the February of the 2008/09 season. Ray Wilkins took over as caretaker manager for one game until Guus Hiddink was brought in the cover until the end of the season, winning the FA Cup in that time.
Carlo Ancelotti was next through the rapidly revolving manager's door, winning the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season. He managed to cling on to get a full second season, but was promptly replaced by Andre Villas-Boas for the start of the 2011/12 fixture calendar. The Portuguese was replaced in March 2012 by Di Matteo, who went on to guide a group of players who had looked lacklustre at best to an FA Cup win and an extraordinary first Champions League final victory for the club.
Di Matteo's history with the club was not made that night in Munich. When I began supporting Chelsea 17 years ago, Robbie had just signed for the club as a player and scored on his debut against Middlesbrough. When the Blues reached the FA Cup final in 1997, he scored after 42 seconds, and Chelsea won their first trophy for 20 years. This sparked a revival at the club and they continued winning ways, with Di Matteo again scoring in the 1999/200 FA Cup final.
The Italian suffered an horrific injury early in the 2000/01 season, and despite his best efforts to recover from this, he retired from football in 2002.
Chelsea had been a mediocre, mid-table side for many years until the mid-1990s saw the arrival of Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Guillt among others. With these players, Chelsea again begun to win and show their worth, and were it not for the contributions of these men on the pitch, it is doubtful that Chelsea would have been in a position where Roman Abramovich would have wanted to purchase the club in 2003.
I was one of the few fans I know who was genuinely happy when Di Matteo was given the manager's job after Villas-Boas was sacked. I thought it gave a man who had shown so much love for the club over the years a chance to really make a name for himself. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe he would take the club to Munich, but once we were there, I knew we would win.
Then this past summer he made some great purchases in the transfer window, adding Oscar, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses to freshen up a squad in transition. He was given the financial backing for this, but failed to squeeze a few more pennies from Abramovich to fund the purchase of a striker to replace Didier Drogba. This is probably based, in large part, on the fact that Abramovich spent £50 million on Fernando Torres.
Torres has consistently underperformed since his arrival at Chelsea. He makes a lot of clever runs and works hard at creating chances, but he simply cannot finish them. In the Premier League game against West Bromwich Albion, he didn't have a single shot on goal. He is the first-choice striker at a club who have won the Champions League, and in 60 minutes on the pitch he did not shoot for goal once, yet he still has a job this morning.
After the Shevchenko debacle, when Abramovich decided that £30 million was a perfectly reasonable price for a 30-year-old striker, I thought he might have learned something, something along the lines of "If you buy a bag of rocks for £50 million, it won't make them into diamonds."
I'm not saying that Torres is the footballing equivalent of a bag of rocks, but he has hardly shone since he joined Chelsea.
The Blues are without a win in five games because they have been unable or unwilling to take their chances in front of goal. The defending has been sloppy with the absence of John Terry's organisational skills, but these errors would have easily been balanced had they been putting away their chances at the other end.
Now Chelsea will be heading off to their first Club World Cup having sacked the manager who got them there. Whilst I didn't expect this turn of events, I can't honestly say I'm surprised. What I can say is that when not one of the eight people you have hired to do a job see out their full contract, over the course of nine years, it might be time to look again at how things are done.
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