Di Matteo admits Terry saga has tarnished the image of Chelsea
Roberto Di Matteo has admitted for the first time that John Terry's abuse of Anton Ferdinand had damaged Chelsea's image.
Chelsea have taken action against Terry after their captain accepted his English FA ban and fine for racial abuse.
"Certainly it put a little bit of a cloud over the image of the club," Di Matteo said. "The image of the club has suffered from this issue. There's no denying that. I think he realises he let himself down and the club in that moment."
Di Matteo insisted that he had no regrets about the support the club have shown Terry over the past year, through his trial, at which he was acquitted, which preceded the FA's independent regulatory commission.
"We have followed the legal process and supported our player," Di Matteo said. "There was a legal process. He was cleared in a magistrates' court, you have to take that into consideration. We couldn't comment, couldn't prejudice the outcome."
Although Di Matteo would not speak of the details of Chelsea's punishment for Terry, it is not thought to have extended to stripping Terry of the captaincy.
The defender is suspended for the next four domestic games, starting this afternoon at Tottenham Hotspur, but he is set to lead out Chelsea at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Di Matteo said that he continues to hold Terry in high regard as a player. "He's part of our squad and has been a great servant over 555 games," he said.
"He's made a mistake, let himself and the club down. He's done a lot of good work as well."
Di Matteo did not doubt that Terry still embodied Chelsea. "If you judge him as a player, absolutely. Over the years, what he has proved and done for the club."
When asked whether he had a responsibility to judge on more than just football ability, Di Matteo said: "It is not for me to judge the whole package. I'm a manager, not a judge of people's lives. I only judge on what I see on the training ground and pitch. That is what the job has to be about."
"It will be my judgement on the player," Di Matteo said. "If I do decide to select him, it is because it is appropriate to select him for the team. And as captain."
Di Matteo is confident that Terry will continue to play well after his ban. Just last month he praised the defender's mental strength and resilience, comparing him to some greats of the modern game.
"If you look at his career, he's always got on with it, he's a confident player," Di Matteo said of Terry's return to Loftus Road.
"To be able to survive for so many years at the top level in football, at club and international level, you need to be mentally strong.
"Paolo Maldini, Angelo Peruzzi, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Alessandro Costacurta, Alessandro Del Piero -- they are all players who have spent 15 to 20 years at the highest level, of domestic and international football."
Di Matteo does not believe Chelsea's anti-racism stance has been compromised, despite criticism. "We are taking action against our player," he said. "Just as we do against supporters.
"We don't feel we're operating differently." (© Independent News Service)