So, Roberto Di Matteo has gone. The Italian lasted 262 days in the job, and will probably be awarded a testimonial of some sorts for his longevity. It’s an almost unheard-of length of time in the job at Stamford Bridge nowadays. The Champions League was Roman Abramovich’s greatest ambition, the reason he has put over £1 billion into Chelsea FC, and Di Matteo delivered it to him. Ironic, then, that Abramovich’s memory is so short. Di Matteo has been treated unfairly, even by Abramovich’s managerial standards.
Abramovich, then, has brought in Rafa Benitez as interim manager. When Phil Neal was brought in as Liverpool’s interim manager and asked by journalists how long he would be in the job, he replied that he would be in charge “for the unforeseeable future”. The lack of certainty is apt today, because nobody has any idea how Benitez can escape with his dignity intact. He is Abramovich’s ninth manager in Abramovich’s nine years at the club, and has less chance of survival than the current crop of I’m A Celebrity! contestants. If he wins every match, Abramovich will get rid of him in his quest for Guardiola, and if he even draws one, he will be sacked for poor results. Abramovich’s continuing search for success has made him into the most demanding boss in the world. Barcelona, owned by fans, has difficulty renting a boardroom made for 170,000 people, so they do not discuss sacking the manager quite so often. Manchester United have stuck with Sir Alex Ferguson for 26 years. There has been much debate over the last decade as to whether United could have won quite so much silverware if they had sacked Ferguson after “three years of excuses” – and we all know what the banner displayed at Old Trafford made of Ferguson’s managerial style!
Abramovich needs to be patient. That, or book himself in for a long period of psychological therapy, because he needs his head examined if he thinks that the club can progress if they change their manager every time the moon enters its next phase. The club is building on foundations of sand, so it is particularly ironic that Abramovich has been sinking his money into the club for the past nine years. Chelsea will be sinking as well if he keeps up the vicious circle of appointments, championships, losing games, sackings.
Abramovich, as owner, can do what he likes with his club. After spending £32 million on Eden Hazard, £50 million on Fernando Torres and £20 million each on Juan Mata and Oscar, he is entitled to be keen that his money is going to a worthy cause, and that it is not being wasted. His manager – I don’t want to say who, for fear it will be out of date tomorrow – has to treat the cash with respect. However, the supporters of Chelsea – the real ones, not the ones that chose the club because of Abramovich’s money – will want stability, if only for six months.
It would be presumptuous to hope for any more time than that under Abramovich.
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