x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Roberto Di Matteo has plenty of suitors with Chelsea future unclear

Liverpool, Lazio and Aston Villa all keen on the Italian coach if Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, decides not to offer him a permanent job.

Roberto Di Matteo interim manager of Chelsea has options after winning the UEFA Champions League final.  Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Roberto Di Matteo interim manager of Chelsea has options after winning the UEFA Champions League final. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Roberto Di Matteo's future remains undecided despite finally making Roman Abramovich the owner of a Champions League winning club.

Chelsea's 'interim first-team coach' last night added European football's grandest prize to their FA Cup success still unaware if he is even to be interviewed to manage the club next season.

Di Matteo's skill in turning around a campaign that appeared destined to end as the worst of Abramovich's nine-year reign has attracted serious external interest in his potential availability. The Italian has yet to enter discussions with any of his suitors, but could be in a position to do so as early as this week.

After sacking Kenny Dalglish last week, Liverpool's owners intend to appoint a young coach capable of delivering attacking football and restoring the club, first to the Champions League qualification, and then to a challenge for the Premier League title.

They intend to interview several candidates including Roberto Martinez, Andre Villas-Boas and, if available, Di Matteo before appointing the new man.

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner, who has drafted a similar job spec for Alex McLeish's succession, also wants to speak to Chelsea's double trophy winning coach as well as Martinez and Paul Lambert. Lazio are keen on bringing Di Matteo back to Serie A as a replacement for Edy Reja, who resigned the position last week.

Abramovich, meanwhile, allowed Di Matteo to arrive in Munich for Chelsea's second final in two weeks without once speaking to the Italian since he took over from the sacked Villas-Boas.

"That's no problem," said Di Matteo ahead of the final. "I didn't have a good enough time or it wasn't relevant to have any conversation [with Abramovich]. We are all focused on being successful."

Publicly, Chelsea have held to a line that the club will "assess things" after Champions League final. In the background, Abramovich has been trying to convince Pep Guardiola to forsake the sabbatical he planned on after quitting Barcelona to take over at Stamford Bridge. The Russian billionaire has also made an unsuccessful approach to Jose Mourinho, who has changed his mind on a summer return to the Premier League and will stay on at Real Madrid.

There has been no promise that Di Matteo would be interviewed for a post he has filled with such distinction since Villas-Boas' March 4 sacking. The club has simply held to an undertaking to meet the Italian and assistant coach Eddie Newton this week; one made upon their instalment.

Newton will make an independent decision on his future and could be retained by the club even if Di Matteo exits.

Whoever is made manager for next season, Chelsea intend to continue to pursue a transfer strategy in which decisions are taken by Abramovich and his lieutenants with only limited consultation with the coach. The club has already signed Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and Germany winger Marko Marin for next season.

Chelsea have also made efforts to recruit Rafael da Silva as a new right-back for next season, placing an inquiry with Manchester United last week. Sir Alex Ferguson, however, is unwilling to part with the 21-year-old Brazilian who has made close to 100 first-team appearances in his four seasons at Old Trafford.

 

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