Just six months after becoming the first Chelsea manager to win the European Cup, Roberto Di Matteo has been sacked by demanding owner Roman Abramovich…and it speaks volumes about football that those within the game are stating they’re “not surprised” by the news.
Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player, FA Cup final goalscorer and Italian international, has been at Chelsea since the start of the 2011/12 season, where he was initially Andre Villas-Boas’ number two, before replacing the former Porto boss as interim manager following his sacking in March.
Within two months of his appointment, Di Matteo etched his name into Chelsea history when he guided the club to the Champions League title, masterminding the defeat of world conquering Barcelona in the semi-finals before beating Bayern Munich on home soil in the final.
Add to that the FA Cup trophy that the little Italian also won, with victories in the semis and final against Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool, and Chelsea found themselves with a manager capable of winning trophies and getting the best out of a side that was under-performing, disjointed and ridden by in-house feuds…and that is a pretty successful formula.
So why has Di Matteo been sacked? What’s gone so wrong at Stamford Bridge this season that has warranted his removal from his position as Chelsea boss?
Well, nothing, really. Sure, the club are on the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League after a 3-0 defeat away to Juventus last night, but their group is surely one of the most competitive, as it also includes Shakhtar Donetsk. However, victory over winless Nordsjaelland in their final group game could still see them qualify ahead of Juve, should the “Old Lady” lose in Donetsk.
It must have all gone wrong in the league then? No, not at all. Lying third in the table, four points off leaders Manchester City, Chelsea have had a great start to the season, with the midfield trio of Hazard, Mata and Oscar providing the Blues with a wonderful creative force in midfield able to slice any defence in the world up like a knife through butter.
Chelsea aren’t on a particularly great run of form at the moment, having won just one of their last five, whilst the poor form (and lack of selection of Fernando Torres) will no doubt be a sticking point for the Chelsea hierarchy, but the club are two points better off in the league than at the same point last season and are indeed four points closer to the top of the table.
The problem at Chelsea lies with owner Roman Abramovich, who has a history of knee jerk reactions and the quick firing of managers, with Di Matteo becoming the third, after big Phil Scolari and Villas-Boas, to last under 300 days in the role.
Other names to manage the club under Abramovich include Jose Mourinho, who guided the club to two league titles before a break down in his relationship with the owner led to his departure in 2007, Claudio Ranieri, sacked a year after Abramovich’s arrival to make way for Mourinho, Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelloti, the man who guided Chelsea to their other league title during Abramovich’s rein.
Seven bosses have now been sacked by the billionaire – nine have managed the club since his takeover in 2003. A tenth incoming boss will be the same amount as Manchester United have had since 1937, Arsenal since 1966, Aston Villa since 1990 and Everton since 1987.
The Russian’s unhealthy desire for immediate success, and an almost expectation to win every game, is astounding and this belief have eventually rubbed off on football, through both the fans and other clubs.
The last five or so years have undoubtedly seen an increase in the amount of managers losing their job without being given a full crack at the whip, with media frantically cranking up the pressure on any manager at any given club should they fail to win in three games.
The Sky Generation of fans now expect success, football after all thrives upon it. But it cannot be achieved by all. Only four clubs in professional football can win a division each season, only 10 can be promoted, a maximum of four can win domestic trophies (FA Cup, League Cup, Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Community Shield) and only four can qualify for the Champions League.
It’s simply absurd and unrealistic to expect success game after game, month after month, season after season. With the monopoly of money in football these days, there are too many clubs spending too much cash for them all to be successful.
With his money and his high levels of expectation, I believe Abramovich started this “success needy” culture in British football, and sure, under his guidance, Chelsea have had unprecedented levels of success, with their trophy cabinet glistening and glittering with ten major trophies won under his rein. But at what price to football has this come?