Early Doors

Chelsea right to stall over Di Matteo future

Early Doors

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Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo is thrown in the air as Chelsea celebrate victory in the FA Cup






Chelsea paraded the European Cup through the streets of West London on Sunday — marking the first occasion that England's capital has become home to the trophy.

The open-top bus made the short drive from Fulham Broadway to Parsons Green on a route lined by an estimated 70,000 fans, while German media reported another 20,000 made the most of their time in Munich by packing out the Odeonsplatz to celebrate before finally returning home.

Of course, this being Chelsea, their celebrations at joining the pantheon of clubs to win the top prize were overshadowed by the unusual situation in which they find themselves. The team now crowned champions of Europe could be without both their star striker and their manager by the start of next season.

It now looks highly likely that Didier Drogba will be off to China. His last kick of a ball in anger won the shootout that sealed the trophy against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena; his next could be for Shanghai Shenhua against Henan Construction at the Zhengzhou Hanghai Stadium.

Still, letting a 34-year-old striker who is out of contract leave is one thing. Voluntarily allowing the manager who has just won you football's ultimate club prize is quite another.

Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo faces a wait to discover whether or not winning two trophies will be enough to earn him the job on a full-time basis.

Since taking over from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas at the start of March, Di Matteo has won 14 of his 21 matches in charge, if victory in the shootout against Bayern is included as a win. He has given owner Roman Abramovich the prize he coveted in buying the club, as well as strengthening its grip on the FA Cup by claiming that trophy for the fourth time in six years.

Di Matteo, a firm favourite as a player, has restored the confidence and siege mentality upon which Chelsea thrive as a season which could have ended in disaster instead culminated in their greatest ever achievement.

And yet, despite that, the Italian is only "in the mix" as the decision over who will be the next permanent manager is still to be made.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said: "We've put (managerial speculation) aside for the last six or eight weeks, concentrating on Barcelona, the FA Cup and Bayern Munich, but I think now we have to sit down and figure that out. Roberto is certainly in the mix, he's done a great job and has to have serious consideration."

Such posturing on Chelsea's part gives cause to wonder just who else they have in the frame for the role if European glory — and with it entry into next season's Champions League at the expense of London rivals Tottenham — has only earned Di Matteo a place on the shortlist alongside the likes of Jose Mourinho and Fabio Capello.

For his part, Di Matteo has continually dismissed any talk about his future, and even after lifting the trophy on Saturday that did not change.

The 41-year-old said after the game: "I feel great. But I need a holiday because these last three months have been very challenging. At this moment, whatever the future holds for me is irrelevant."

There is certainly sense in Chelsea's pragmatic decision not to leap in and give Di Matteo a contract. The former midfielder is still a relative newcomer to management who had only spent two and a half years in dugouts as a number one before stepping into the breach at Stamford Bridge.

Successive promotions at MK Dons and West Brom got his managerial career off to a great start, but his only six months as a top-flight boss previous to Chelsea ended with the sack after a terrible run of 13 defeats in 18 games left the Baggies facing relegation.

When Villas-Boas was fired in March — ironically after defeat at West Brom — Chelsea were fifth. Under Di Matteo, they finished one place lower.

The rebuilding job at Chelsea which Villas-Boas started last summer - but was only involved in for nine months - still needs to be done. The senior players are now a year older, and a few of them may be on their way out of the club in the coming weeks anyway.

The next full-time Chelsea boss has to deal with an ageing squad, less money to spend than his predecessors, a sulking main striker in Fernando Torres and a controversy-magnet of a captain in John Terry who will be fresh from a legal trial. It will be a lot for any manager to take, even the most experienced and thick-skinned in the game.

Just as Chelsea are right to stall in their decision over a new boss rather than make the emotional, knee-jerk choice, so Di Matteo may well wonder if he really wants to tackle such a role, or whether he would be better off walking away from Chelsea as one of the most eligible managers in world football.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I told him, 'Petr Cech knows where you are going to kick it'. I just told Robben that he is going to miss it. You know, we just do that sometimes as players. I think when the penalty was missed, we kind of believed that this trophy was going to be ours." — Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel reveals a little chirp in Arjen Robben's ear may have contributed to the Dutchman's poor extra-time penalty.

FOREIGN VIEW: "It's incredible. I can hardly find the words. Our only goal was to stay in the top flight and in the end we are champions. I'm going to enjoy it because it will probably be the only time it happens to me." — Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren celebrates his unfancied club winning their maiden Ligue 1 title on the final day of the season with a 2-1 win at AJ Auxerre. The match descended into chaos as police were called in after local fans pelted the pitch with flares, tomatoes and toilet paper to interrupt the game three times.

COMING UP: Paul Parker will be giving his verdict on an unbelievable night in Munich, plus Pitchside Europe will be delivering news from the continent as club football winds to a close for the season.

Away from football you can follow live coverage of England's run chase against West Indies on the final day of the first Test at Lord's (11:00), plus as a bonus there is also the Rome Masters final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (11:00), which was rained off yesterday.

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