So Di Matteo has been sacked by Chelsea, with Rafa Benitez set to be named as the 8th manager under Roman Abramovich’s reign as Chelsea owner in what is expected to be a short-term deal.
Rafa has undoubted world-class abilities as a manager. He’s suited to the Premier League. Whether he will succeed long-term with Terry & Co. is very much up for debate.
Just why Roman bothered hiring Di Matteo on a permanent basis (even if he was a just stop-gap until Pep decided to get his act together) if he was going to sack him while Chelsea lie 3rd in the Premier League, and albeit looking like they’re set to not make it out of the group stages of the Champions League is quite frankly, has left me dumbfounded.
The way I expected things to pan out was that Di Matteo would last until next summer in which Pep Guardiola would have been given the job. The fact Di Matteo was only handed a 2 year contract last summer indicates Roman didn’t see the young Italian as a long-term option for Chelsea. Instead, Roman embarrasses himself – even by his standards, and sacks the short-term solution, scampering whatever plans he had set for the future.
In an alternate universe, Rafa would be as good a choice to make for a long-term appointment as possible, but in this world Rafa is relatively damaged goods in England – especially in the eyes of Chelsea fans and certain parts of the press. Not only that, but he’d be managing ever-influential captain John Terry. What is Terry decided he doesn’t like Rafa? Last season during the Champions League semi-final vs. Barcelona Terry stood by Di Matteo like the manager himself. There is no chance Rafa would allow a player attempt to have such authority. So much of the to-be appointment makes little sense.
But, if somehow, he lasts until summer – presuming he accepts a short-term deal – and somehow deflects the inevitable talk of Guardiola taking over, he could do very, very well. I think it would be evolution, rather than revolution, which we all seen under AVB’s ill-fated tenure last year. Chelsea already plays 4-2-3-1 which is of course what Rafa mastered under his time at Liverpool. The attacking qualities are already there, or nearly all there, but a defensive mentality would surely be instilled into a squad which was famed for its solidity under Mourinho. Then of course there is the Torres factor, although I question whether he has the ability at all anymore, if any one manager could help him regain any sort of consistent form it’s Benitez.
If it goes well for Rafa Benitez I’d liken it to be exactly the opposite of how AVB’s time went at Chelsea. They’d be slow starters, but would get better and better defensively. Again, is this enough for Roman, who yearns for a time of attacking masterclass football, balanced with solidity at the back. Does that even exist? If it does at all right now, ironically, it’s occurring in Madrid week in – week out under Jose Mourinho. And the one man who used to constantly get under the skin of Jose, despite being resourced with much less talent and money? Yeah, you already know. Rafa.
This just got very interesting.