Roberto Di Matteo’s time as Chelsea manager was suddenly ended when he was fired on Wednesday. Di Matteo, who had guided the Blues to a surprising Champions League victory just 6 months ago, was sacked in an emergency mid-night meeting at Cobham Training Centre.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich felt that Di Matteo’s removal from the squad was their only choice after Chelsea’s unsuccessful start to the season. The meeting came almost immediately after an upsetting 3-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League, putting the squad in jeopardy of becoming the first reigning champions to be eliminated from the group stage now that they are in 3rd in Group E. Chelsea will play FC Nordsjaelland next in the Champions League, but if Juventus gains even 1 point in their final group game with leaders Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea will be eliminated.
In the Premier League, Chelsea had been on top for much of the season, but they had fallen to 3rd behind Manchester United and Manchester City after taking only 2 points from their last 4 games in the league. They face a difficult challenge this weekend as they prepare to face undefeated Manchester City in a game that could very well help or hurt their chances for winning Premiership this year.
In a statement, Chelsea said, “The team’s recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season. The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts.”
Because Abramovich has a history with sacking managers, this being his 9th in 9 years, Di Matteo’s demise did not come as a surprise to many people. He acted fairly quickly and remorselessly with Di Matteo, who had replaced Andre Villas-Boas in March of last year. Against all odds, he had led the team to their 7th FA Cup title as well as their 1st Champions League trophy following wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Soon after landing in England, Di Matteo was told of Chelsea’s decision to fire him at the 4 a.m. meeting on the training ground. He had reportedly said goodbye to the team in the dressing room after their Champions League loss to Juve.
Without even meeting Abramovich, Chelsea welcomed unpopular Rafael Benitez to be their new manager just 24 minutes after the controversy began. In his time with Liverpool, Benitez led the squad to the top of the Champions League, FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and FA Community Shield. He has been without a job since his removal from Italian side Inter Milan in the middle of 2010. His contract with Chelsea lasts until the end of the season, as Abramovich hopes to see Pep Guardiola, who is currently taking a 1 year break from football in New York, manage the team next season.
Chelsea has found themselves in the center of 2 racism scandals in the last few months, but now their focus has switched to Benitez. Although people believe Abramovich is just holding the place for Guardiola, Benitez still has time to prove that he can push Chelsea to the top.
In a press conference, Benitez said, “I don’t care about the short-term deal, what I have in my head is to win every game. We will see what happens – in seven months we can win some trophies.”