Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Di Matteo happy to stay at Chelsea... for time being

Roberto Di Matteo has dismissed suggestions he is to leave his post as Chelsea's assistant manager after little more than four months in the job, but yesterday acknowledged that he would review his position at the end of the season after receiving a number of tentative enquiries from clubs hoping to tempt him back into management.

The Italian, who enjoyed considerable success at both MK Dons and West Bromwich Albion before being dismissed from the latter last season, was headhunted by Andre Villas-Boas when the Portuguese arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer.

His role, the Chelsea manager said, was to inject flair into the side, while his glittering playing career at the club ensured a feeling of continuity even as an entirely new regime took charge.

It had been suggested in recent weeks, though, that Di Matteo was growing restless in the role, feeling increasingly sidelined by Villas-Boas and with a number of sides in Europe hoping to coax the Swiss-born former Italy international away from Stamford Bridge. Though the 41-year-old admitted he had been approached informally by several clubs, he is adamant he has no plans to consider his position immediately.

“Only the future will tell,” he said. “I am very happy to be here. It is my club, [in that] I feel at home here. Andre and I have developed a very good working relationship, so it is something we will discuss, maybe at the end of the season.

“We have a very good relationship — not only a professional relationship but a personal relationship as well — and we will be friends for the rest of our lives. That is how it has been. It has not been at all tricky (adapting to life as an assistant). I knew the role from the start. We work closely together, and we talk a lot, but I am very happy with my role. I do not think it could have been any better.

“I support him in any way he needs support: coaching, the organisational aspect, everything. It is a great experience for me. I have learned every day from the time I have been here. The first conversation I had with Andre helped convince me to come back, and the fact that Roman Abramovich and the club were happy to have me back.

“But I do not see it as a step back. It is a step forward. I still have ambitions, absolutely, and what happens in the future, I do not know. One day you are here, the next day you don't know.”

Di Matteo is at pains to point out that Villas-Boas's age — the Portuguese is seven years his junior — does not prevent him having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, insisting he does not need his guidance and underlining that the 34-year-old “makes all the decisions”.

There are some areas, though, where his assistant's past comes in useful. “When you lose games, it is a very lonely place,” he said. “I know what he is feeling, and I try to be there and help him. I have experienced that, and yes, I can give a bit of perspective sometimes on how it feels as a player when, for example, you have played three games in six days. I know how you can feel after that.”

To alleviate that strain, Di Matteo confirmed that Chelsea will field a number of young prospects and fringe players in this evening's Carling Cup tie with Liverpool. Both Romelu Lukaku and Josh McEachran are expected to start against a side who won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge just nine days ago.

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