Roberto Di Matteo set to be given one-year deal as Chelsea's new manager
CHELSEA last night appeared set to concede defeat — for now — in their attempts to secure Pep Guardiola as manager by preparing to announce that Roberto Di Matteo would remain in the post.
Despite leading Chelsea to a Champions League triumph, and winning the FA Cup, Di Matteo had to wait until the weekend to find out whether he would keep his job. It appears that he has been offered only a one-year deal.
Talks have been ongoing for the past week with Di Matteo increasingly confident that he would secure a deal although he will be disappointed at the length of contract.
Senior figures at the club remain unsure whether the former West Bromwich Albion manager is the right man to take over.
While hardly a ringing endorsement of Di Matteo, it is understood the Italian is prepared to accept the offer and is expected to sign a new contract when he returns from holiday in the United States later this week.
The 42 year-old’s current deal, as interim head coach, expires at the end of this month. His assistant, Eddie Newton, is also expected to agree a new contract.
Di Matteo was promoted from assistant manager after Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea at the beginning of March and was charged with the task of gaining Champions League qualification. Chelsea finished sixth in the Premier League — a place below they were when Villas-Boas was sacked — but won the Champions League.
Even though there is an acknowledgement within the club that Di Matteo enjoyed a huge slice of fortune, there is a belief that he should be credited with the way in which he galvanised the team and turned the season around.
Despite his achievements, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had appeared reluctant to confirm Di Matteo and discussions took place, even after the Champions League trophy was won last month, as to whether Guardiola could be persuaded to take over after he announced he was quitting Barcelona.
Guardiola has maintained that he wants to take a year-long sabbatical from football although he did relent on that timetable before Barcelona’s final match of the season, saying he could be “seduced” by the right club before clarifying that he still intended to take some “months” off.
The problem for Di Matteo, given the short contract he has been offered, is that he will have to deal with the spectre of Guardiola being in the background. If Chelsea start next season poorly, or the style of football is not deemed acceptable by Abramovich, then the pressure on him will build quickly and his position could become untenable.
Abramovich also considered a raft of other candidates such as Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, France’s Laurent Blanc and others such as former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and Fabio Capello before reasoning that if he could not get Guardiola then he would keep Di Matteo.
The Italian will have to adapt the style of play of the team away from the defensive counter-attacking approach which proved successful at the end of the season but is not what Abramovich has demanded.
The new manager also has to conduct an overhaul of the Chelsea squad which started with the departure of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa and with the acquisition of £35?million play-maker Eden Hazard and attacking midfielder Marko Marin.
Meanwhile Abramovich is set to make a personal check on Poland forward Robert Lewandowski during Russia’s Euro 2012 clash with the co-hosts in Warsaw.
Lewandowski, top scorer in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund last season, was watched repeatedly by Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal last term.
Bayern Munich are also interested in the striker.