Despite sources in Italy saying that Roberto Di Matteo may not be interested in the Sunderland job, Sunderland’s Director of Football Roberto De Fanti is recommending Di Matteo for the manager position, but Ellis Short and the Sunderland staff have their work cut out for them if they want to hire the former Chelsea manager as the man to replace Paolo Di Canio.
As the news spread of Di Canio’s sacking, names emerged from the pile of contenders for the vacant managerial post. Names such as Gus Poyet, Tony Pulis, Alex McLeish, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Gianfranco Zola have been mentioned in the same breath for the position. But Di Matteo, who led Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2012, is the bookmakers’ favorite for the job.
Di Matteo had humble beginnings. His managerial career began at MK Dons in July of 2008 after Paul Ince left for Ewood Park. The goal was to help the club win promotion with the new manager. To get there, Di Matteo pried his former teammate from Norway, the lanky Tore Andre Flo, out of retirement. The club finished third in League One in the 2008-2009 season. The club lost on penalties in the playoff semi-final to Scunthorpe United.
After Matteo left MK Dons, he became manager at West Bromwich Albion in June, 2009. In his first season at the Hawthorns, the club finished behind Newcastle in the Championship, which guaranteed promotion to the Premier League. A reunion of sorts for Di Matteo came on the opening day of the 2010-2011 Premier League season with a return to Stamford Bridge for the former club hero. The result was a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea, but Di Matteo managed to attain the manager of the month award for September. The tide turned for him when a series of losses in January saw the club falling down the table. By February of 2011, Di Matteo was given the proverbial pink slip. The club finished in the top half of the table in 11th place.
Then all roads seemed to lead back to home. A fan favorite at Chelsea as a player, Di Matteo was brought in as manager during March 2012 to replace Andre Villas-Boas.
As a former player and someone the fans recognized from the Chelsea squad of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Di Matteo struck an immediate chord with the Chelsea faithful, which was helped by a series of positive results in Europe and the Premier League.