Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, fresh off a club-unprecedented FA Cup and Champions League double, will soon take a well-deserved vacation with his family in the Caribbean. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has yet to offer the man who has brought him what he most wanted a long-term contract. Di Matteo deserves to bask in the glow of his accomplishments, not sweat over his future.
When Di Matteo returns from holiday, he should make one last charge to his club account, rent a Maybach Landaulet, drive out to Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, withdraw his name from consideration, then cruise off with the top down humming along to Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run.”
Why? Because Abramovich may afford Di Matteo a year on the job. Di Matteo, with the Champions League on his CV, can do better for himself elsewhere.
-One arched eyebrow from Pep Guardiola and Abramovich would be all over him like sour cream on a blintz
-No European Cup/Champions League winner has repeated since Arrigo Sacchi’s powerhouse AC Milan clubs of 1989 and 1990 featuring Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten, and Ruud Gullit. As impressive as Chelsea’s wins over Napoli, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich were, it is unfathomable to think they can pull off such a miracle run again next season, despite the incentive of the 2013 final being held at Wembley.
-A top four finish will be especially hard to achieve next season. Gone are the days of the Big Four; when the only drama before each season was finding out which top four league spot each club would slot into. Manchester City, with their willingness to absorb monumental financial losses, is here to stay. Manchester United has a young developing core to pair with the likes of Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney. Arsene Wenger always finds a way to keep Arsenal near the top, if not at it, and will likely still have the best striker in the league in RVP. Newcastle showed it has the talent, heart, and flair to compete for a top four spot. Liverpool’s Boston brahmin owners have the ambition and the money to make quick changes. Tottenham faces perhaps the toughest challenge of all should they lose Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, but never underestimate Harry Redknapp. So even if Chelsea improve on 2011-12, they may be on the outside looking in come next May.
-What makes next season so difficult is the rebuilding job that is clearly needed. Andre Villas-Boas, disastrous run aside, was right to sound the alarm. Didier Drogba, Chelsea’s fourth all-time leading scorer, all-time leading scorer in Europe and a money player in the clutch, is already gone. Key players such as John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Raul Meireles, Gary Cahill, and Flourent Malouda will not have a proper rest because of Euro 2012. And Chelsea has already seen the best days of Terry, Lampard, Malouda, and Michael Essien. Fernando Torres, no longer a “niño”, hasn’t inspired confidence that he is ready to fill the void left by Drogba.
-Even if Abramovich sells one of his yachts to restock the squad with new glittering jewels from the continent, it will take time for a new-look club to click, as Manchester City has shown with their failure in the Champions League and leaving the Premier League title until the 94th minute of the season. And time is not a commodity that Abramovich is generous with.
Add it all up, and Di Matteo faces an unappetizing platter of high expectations, a roster in transition, and little patience from the boss. Rather than one year and done in 2012-13, Di Matteo would do better by taking his services elsewhere. He won’t want for offers.