Win Champions League and Di Matteo still may not get Chelsea job
There is no certainty at Chelsea that Roberto Di Matteo will be offered the manager's job in the long term, even if he wins the Champions League final on 19 May having eliminated Barcelona in such dramatic circumstances on Tuesday night.
The first choice of Roman Abramovich is still understood to be Tuesday's beaten opponent, Pep Guardiola, who is still yet to sign a new contract at Barcelona to keep him at the club beyond this season. Rumours abounded yesterday about a crucial lunchtime meeting between Guardiola and the club's president, Sandro Rosell, and an announcement is expected by his next press conference on Saturday at the very latest.
The doubt over Di Matteo's future was reflected among the Chelsea players, always a good barometer as to the club hierarchy's mood, in the aftermath of Tuesday's win. None of them gave him their unequivocal backing that he should get the job in the summer despite the excellent run of results he has achieved – losing just one game in 15.
Di Matteo himself continues to dismiss the issue of his future at the club beyond this season as "irrelevant". Officially the "interim first team coach" since he took from Andre Villas-Boas on 8 February he is understood to have been interviewed for the permanent job by technical director Michael Emenalo. However, despite reaching the Champions League and FA Cup finals, he remains more of an outside bet. The club's chief executive, Ron Gourlay, was non-committal on Di Matteo's future in an interview with BBC Five Live last night. He said that the club would return to the issue at the end of the season and refused to comment on whether recent results had improved his chances.
Frank Lampard, who will also have a decision to make about his future at the club this summer, said that Di Matteo, formerly Villas-Boas' assistant, had made a difference, but was non-committal about how he saw the Italian's future. Lampard has one more year left on his contract after this season and will, in all likelihood have lucrative long-term offers from China to consider. Lampard said: "It's a hard call for me to make [on Di Matteo] because it's a club decision. What I can say is that what he's done is no coincidence. He's created an atmosphere, he's got players playing, the camp's very happy and you can see that in the results. The results don't lie. I can't speak highly enough of him. I'm sure there's a question he doesn't know the answer to and I don't know. The club will sit down in the summer with him but I can't speak highly enough of what he's done. He's been incredible."
Asked whether it would be impossible to overlook him if Chelsea won the Champions League on 19 May, Lampard said: "Nothing's impossible. It was impossible to beat Barcelona and we've done it. I don't know. If we win it, Robbie deserves to win it for what he's done for the club."
Branislav Ivanovic, suspended for the final, said that the players had not contemplated the fact that Munich could be Di Matteo's last game in charge: "Nobody thinks this way. We'll wait until the end. At the moment everybody is happy with Robbie Di Matteo. We have a great relationship with him and the results are good for us."
John Terry will be prevented by Uefa rules from lifting the European Cup, or sharing the job with vice-captain Lampard, should his Chelsea team-mates win the trophy on 19 May following his red card against Barcelona for violent conduct. Terry will learn on 31 May how long his ban for kneeing the back of Alexis Sanchez's leg will rule him out of European competition but he is certain to miss the final.
It is understood that Uefa regulations preclude a player banned for violent conduct from being part of the squad that go up to collect the trophy and the medals. The club will need to seek clarification on the issue.
Lampard said: "My ego doesn't need to lift it. I'd love to be part of the team that wins it and if we do anyone can lift it. I'm devastated for him [Terry]. He's a huge player for the club. He's a central point as the captain. A few players are missing the final but for John especially we know how much it means to him. He'll be there with us. It was hard to console him on the night but hopefully we can win it and do it as a group. He's obviously devastated."
There will be no amnesty for the three Chelsea players, Ramires, Raul Meireles and Ivanovic who all picked up bookings in the game at the Nou Camp and will miss the final. In the case of Meireles, it will be his second suspension of the competition this season. There have been discussions at Uefa about a possible World Cup style semi-final amnesty, as operated by Fifa, but there is no chance of that being implemented in the next week.