x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Roberto Di Matteo did not deserve to be fired by Chelsea

Club owner's tendency to terminate contracts of his club's managers could scare away potential successors of repute.

Roberto Di Matteo was fired just months after guiding Chelsea to Champions League and FA Cup titles. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Roberto Di Matteo was fired just months after guiding Chelsea to Champions League and FA Cup titles. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Perhaps Roberto Di Matteo was a victim of his own success. Perhaps Roman Abramovich believes it is a simple task for a manager to transform a team on the brink of Champions League elimination, conquer Europe and win two trophies, as Di Matteo did.

So while his dismissal may be only the second-stupidest decision Abramovich has made – disposing of Jose Mourinho remains in a class of its own – it is probably the greatest display of footballing ingratitude since Real Madrid got rid of Jupp Heynckes in 1998, just after he ended their 32-year wait to be European champions.

As the 26-day delay between the Munich night that was the greatest in Chelsea's history and the confirmation of Di Matteo's appointment shows, the Italian was never Abramovich's ideal choice.

But he had followed the owner's instructions, reconfiguring the team to add style – and, as most other than the owner could have forecast, sacrificing solidity – until his decision to ditch the out-of-form Fernando Torres in Turin.

As long as the owner deems every blip a crisis, Chelsea will exist in a state of permanent revolution, with managers traipsing in and out, comforted only by the size of their pay-off.

Much as Abramovich admires Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard's next club ought to be one that treats managers with respect. Guardiola's Barcelona were beaten by Chelsea in last season's Champions League, precisely the sort of result that gets managers the axe from Abramovich. It was one that rendered Di Matteo a Chelsea legend.

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