Friday 15 December 2017

Di Matteo denies rift with Blues boss Villas-Boas

Jason Burt

Roberto Di Matteo will consider his future as Chelsea's assistant manager at the end of the season and denied yesterday that he had plans to quit before then.

The 41-year-old former midfielder returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer when his candidacy was submitted to the new manager Andre Villas-Boas. The pair had not met before. There have been rumours of tension given Chelsea's difficult start to the campaign, and also that Di Matteo has struggled to adapt to the role of an assistant and had grown frustrated.

But these were strongly dismissed by Di Matteo, who said: "We have developed a friendship that will last forever. As a person, I can learn every day and I have certainly learnt from the time I've been here, as I did in the previous three years as a manager."

It is Di Matteo's open desire to return to being a manager -- having been in charge at MK Dons and West Brom -- that may lead to his eventual departure and he suggested yesterday that he had already received tentative offers.

"There has been some contact," he said. "People asking about my availability, but I've kind of declined because I'm very happy here. I was flattered, obviously."

Asked how long he intended to be an assistant, Di Matteo said: "That's a good question. I'm very happy to be here: it's 'my' club. Andre and I have developed a very good working relationship, so it's something we'll discuss maybe at the end of the season. What happens in the future, I don't know. I still have ambitions (to be a manager). Absolutely. We're all ambitious here."

Di Matteo said he did not regard taking an assistant's role as a "step back" and was sold on his present position because Roman Abramovich, as well as Villas-Boas, wanted him. Indeed it is something of a policy now at Chelsea to have a prominent former player on the back-room staff, with Di Matteo having followed Steve Clarke and Ray Wilkins.

"I feel very responsible," Di Matteo said. "I have a legacy here with the supporters and the club itself. Maybe I should be a bit more relaxed than I am on game days. But I'm not. I feel very connected."

Chelsea return to action this evening at home to Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup -- a competition that, given the team's indifferent run of form, has taken on far greater importance than at the start of the season when Abramovich told Villas-Boas it should be a testing ground for younger players.

Chelsea will be without the suspended John Terry and the ineligible Raul Meireles but Villas-Boas may select a stronger than expected team due to the pressure on him, although it would seem perverse not to start with the likes of Josh McEachran, Romelu Lukaku, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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