If Chelsea really do appoint Roberto Di Matteo as the permanent manager for next season, it will signal a shift in long-term strategy and a more acute understanding of what Chelsea, the football club, really needs.
Reports suggest that Chelsea have offered Di Matteo a one-year contract with a one-year additional option. It’s a far cry from the 3 to 4 year contracts Abramovich is used to paying out on, and while the club busies itself in buying young talent to renew their title challenge, the transfer strategy and manager selection points in the same direction:
Carlo Ancelotti was too early and wasn’t given the funds. This time around Chelsea are prepared to heavily invest in replacing lost talent, with Hulk expected to join Marko Marin and Eden Hazard, and at least one more player expected to follow. Chelsea have a blueprint on the type of player they want to bring into the club, and they’re following it regardless of who the manager will be. Finally, they will be looking for a manager that suits the players at the club instead of trying to force a manager on the players (Scolari, Villas Boas).
Di Matteo is a safe choice – and with just an year-long deal, the focus will be entirely on performance. If he can get get all the players pulling in the same direction (perhaps the siege mentality needs to be switched on from day one), he’ll last the whole year, and then the availability of other, higher-profile managers will dictate his future. The players Chelsea are buying are mostly to ensure that 6th place never happens again – and even if Di Matteo has a bad season, they should still be in or around 4th place.
Worst case scenario – there’s always Steve Clarke to be poached from West Brom. Or will they finally ask Terry to take over?
With the players at Chelsea’s disposal and the existing club culture, Di Matteo is a better option than any outside option. Chelsea have tried to ‘rebuild’ so many times (Scolari, Ancelotti, AVB) that hopefully someone has realised that repeating what doesn’t work isn’t a risk they can afford to take. As the players change, the culture may gradually change, and in the future you may be able to build a new project.
For now though, the need is to strengthen the squad, keep the ship steady, and find a new stadium site. RDM is the safest choice. In any case, Chelsea’s transfer dealings were always going to be more interesting than their managerial appointment. Who will Chelsea sign next?