Football

Di Matteo the long-term answer for Chelsea

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When Roberto di Matteo embarked on a career in football management with MK Dons little under four years ago, he harboured the ultimate ambition of one day rising to the position of Chelsea boss.

Having started his career in impressive fashion with the Dons and then West Brom, it appeared that the progression towards the top job at Stamford Bridge was one within the Italian's reach if he continued his upward trajectory.

However, Di Matteo's progress was halted somewhat when he was controversially removed from his position at the Hawthorns, and he spent almost sixth months waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

When the next offer did arrive, few would have blamed Di Matteo if he had rejected to the chance to become Andre Villas-Boas' assistant at Chelsea, such are his personal ambitions.

But the 41-year-old clearly saw this as an opportunity to get himself on the right track once again, and further enhance the credentials he had built in Milton Keynes and West Bromwich.

Di Matteo perhaps even viewed it as a potential stepping stone to the Chelsea job one day and, although he would not have expected it to come so soon, he now has a genuine chance of fulfilling a long-held dream.

Since Villas-Boas was relieved of his duties in March after only eight months in west London, Chelsea have operated with a verve and intent under Di Matteo unseen during the reign of his Portuguese predecessor.

While Chelsea's players had to endure an almost dictatorial regime under Villas-Boas, Di Matteo has gone back to basics somewhat and has looked to instil the confidence bereft earlier in the season using a more personal touch.

The former Blues midfielder was forced to play good cop to Villas-Boas' bad cop during his spell as No.2; actions which have worked significantly in his favour since his temporary promotion.

The results have improved, too, and Di Matteo could lead Chelsea into the last four of the Champions League for the first time since 2009, when their hopes in the competition had appeared to be dashed after defeat to Napoli.

With the appointment of Villas-Boas, Roman Abramovich was keen to herald a new era for Chelsea as he took the unusual step of naming a manager with limited experience.

The new found ideals of the Chelsea owner were certainly admirable, with Abramovich allowing Villas-Boas some leeway with results, as long as he set about rebuilding a squad well past its prime.

It would certainly be a shame if the Russian were to abandon these principles so soon after forming the idea of a youthfully exuberant Chelsea, and the appointment of a high-profile manager with a strong personality could see a return to the patterns of old.

Should Abramovich retain these ideals, however, then there is no person more suited to carrying out the tasks the owner requires than the man currently in possession of the role.

Di Matteo has already shown an ability to create a side that can win games while playing attacking football, which was also a key attraction when pursuing Villas-Boas.

He still remains young and impressionable, and is likely to perform any duties at the behest of Abramovich with a minimum of fuss, should he he awarded his dream job on a full-time basis.

It is also an appointment of convenience for Chelsea, with everything already in place and the players already accustomed to - and thriving under - the techniques and style of their Italian boss.

The fact that he also appears to be getting the best out Fernando Torres, when the Spaniard's career seemed to be on a continual downward spiral, may also count significantly in his favour.

Chelsea supporters also seem to be coming round to the thought of Di Matteo leading them into the next chapter of the club's history, having played a prominent role in former glories during his time as a swashbuckling midfielder.

When Di Matteo's star had risen to its peak during his time with West Brom, there were calls by some of the Chelsea faithful to appoint him in tandem with Gianfranco Zola following the end of Gus Hiddink's role as caretaker boss.

With reports also suggesting that Zola could be offered a role on the coaching staff for next season, what once appeared merely a dream - for Di Matteo and fans alike - could soon become very much a reality.

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Topics:
Football
Chelsea
Premier League

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