By Chris Myson
Winning the Champions League in May was still not enough for Roberto Di Matteo to be considered the cast-iron choice for the job of Chelsea manager but, after some deliberation, Roman Abramovich has given the Italian his full backing.
The Blues have officially appointed the Italian on a two-year contract in a fully-deserved move after he turned the club’s fortunes around so dramatically after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, and Pep Guardiola initially being groomed as the long-term successor.
That Champions League glory would have been enough for the Italian to name his terms at any other club. Chelsea, though, still pondered their options for weeks after that success and, as Goal.com revealed, tried to sound out Guardiola.
Then, it appeared Di Matteo would indeed get the role, but only on a one-year deal - a move that would hardly have been a clear message of support for the club icon, who also enjoyed a successful playing career at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola was the man Abramovich wanted and he was prepared to appoint Di Matteo for a year just to keep the seat warm for the Catalan to replace him in 2013.
But the former Stamford Bridge player has now rightly usurped the former Barcelona coach by achieving the ‘Holy Grail’ that was the Russian’s dream by guiding them to the Champions League.
It would have sent out the wrong message for football if, after achieving such success, Di Matteo had missed out on the job altogether or only been given a short-term contract.
For some, the ex-West Brom boss was a surprise choice even as the interim manager after the club’s investment in Villas-Boas went disastrously wrong and resulted in the end of his reign in early March.
However, Di Matteo showed a level of temperament that defies his lack of top-level experience and short coaching career to date, uniting a fragmented dressing room and reverting back to the tactics that have proved successful for Chelsea in the past.
While he could not reverse their slide out of the top four places in the Premier League, he masterminded their FA Cup success and amazingly led the club to European glory, beating Napoli, Benfica, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in a European run that will never be forgotten.
| DI MATTEO'S CHELSEA RECORD
Chelsea had been written off as an aging side who were in need of urgent surgery, but Di Matteo’s faith in the club’s old guard proved to be a masterstroke as Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba & Co. secured his own place in footballing folklore.
The manager has earned the right to be the man who will shape Chelsea’s immediate future and make-up of the playing squad as they try to achieve further European success while re-establishing themselves in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
After being appointed, a thrilled Di Matteo said: “I'm obviously delighted to have been appointed as manager.
“We all achieved incredible success last season that made history for this great club. Our aim is to continue building on that and I'm already planning and looking forward to the squad's return for pre-season."
With Eden Hazard and Marko Marin already signed and Hulk reportedly set to follow, these are very exciting times for Chelsea supporters and Di Matteo will be the man leading the club in what they hope will be the first stages of a successful dynasty.
It is now up to him to prove his early success was not just a flash in the pan and kick-start a new era at the club, carefully re-shaping the playing squad so they can remain on top for many years to come.
It is a chance he fully deserves and judging from his performance so far, you would not bet against him achieving just that and winning more silverware under the title of permanent manager.