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loyalty means little to roman

HOW do you tell a man who has just won two of three trophies available to him as manager of a football club, sorry, but you're not needed?

If all the rumours are correct, that's what will happen when Roberto Di Matteo sits down with Roman Abramovich after delivering the FA Cup and the Champions League trophy following Chelsea's dogged and determined performance against Bayern Munich.

If you're Abramovich, you don't have to concern yourself with such petty considerations. Put simply, he's too big to think about such mundane qualities as loyalty or the idea of rewarding achievement.

If the humour takes him, he will say thanks but no thanks to Di Matteo and shell out another load of cash to bring in another marquee name.

He has the Champions League trophy now, Abramovich, and I wonder what it means to him. Is it everything he hoped for or was Chelsea's performance in winning it not sexy enough for him?

It's because of Abramovich that my first thought after Didier Drogba stepped up and smashed Chelsea's final penalty past Manfred Neuer was whether Roberto Di Matteo will still be the main man at Stamford Bridge next season.

Maybe I should rephrase that, given the strong possibility that he was never the main man and that the club has been run by committee since Andre Villas-Boas was sacked.

There was a moment at the final whistle when Chelsea players were celebrating a remarkable win all over the pitch and Di Matteo sought out Ashley Cole, a top performer on the night and throughout the competition. He grabbed Cole in a bear hug but the player's response was strange, particularly when his eyes shot up to heaven. It was almost as if he felt Di Matteo was milking it.

That said, the selection of Bertrand was a manager's decision if I've ever seen one, so perhaps Di Matteo was in control but only because Chelsea's senior men let him be.


I've no doubt in my mind that between John Terry, Frank Lampard and Drogba, they worked out a way to let Di Matteo manage and that he was happy enough with that provided Chelsea were winning football matches, something Villas-Boas found hard to do without the same dressing room backing.

Now, I think the power has shifted to Di Matteo. Drogba is on the way out, Lampard and Terry in their final few seasons and the hard core which won so much under Jose Mourinho will be breaking up soon.

Chelsea is a big "project" now as Villas Boas described it and part of that will be to weed out the old and find replacements.

But when it came down to it, Abramovich didn't have the courage of his convictions and bowed to player power when he sacked Villas-Boas.

The next man in must dismantle what is there and build something completely new if Abramovich still wants his 'sexy' football. That will take a big job and a strong manager to do it.

In many ways Chelsea's win over Bayern Munich has echoes of what Liverpool did in Istanbul. Nobody gave them a chance when the competition got under way and at half-time in the final, they were a beaten team. Through sheer force of will and Stevie Gerrard, they fought back and through bloody-minded persistence, won the trophy.

But while the win gave Rafa Benitez a platform to stay at Anfield for a long time afterward, Di Matteo has no such luxury.

In fact, if I was Di Matteo, I would go into Abramovich's office today and hand in my notice.

As a much decorated player and an FA Cup and Champions League winning manager, he has a CV which most club owners would drool over and there's always a big job around the corner.


Why not tell Abramovich to keep his club and go find one where Di Matteo will be appreciated on his own merits and free from all the baggage which is such a big part of Stamford Bridge?

But if he does want to take on Chelsea as the permanent manager, he should be given the chance and if there is any residual difficulty with the players from the time when he was assistant to Villas-Boas, that is now less important.

Players are very adaptable creatures and if they know that Abramovich has anointed Di Matteo as the man for the future, they will fall into line quick enough.

And if they don't? Well, Roman can always go out and buy some more players and if Di Matteo doesn't like what he gets, well, then he can sack him and find another mug.