Benitez to keep Chelsea seat warm for Pep or Jose?
Knife-sharpening is by far and away the most popular pastime in Fleet Street. And not six months since he was the toast of Chelsea as he returned to the capital with the Champions League trophy, Roberto Di Matteo is feeling the ire of the London press corp.
After Chelsea’s mauling at the hands of Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night, which came on the heels of an inept Premier League display against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, Di Matteo is beginning to understand just how quickly fortunes change at Stamford Bridge. There seems little he can now do to keep his job as Chelsea slip out of contention in the two competitions that matter most.
It now seems that notoriously trigger happy owner Roman Roman Abramovich, who has never been convinced that Di Matteo is a long-term solution, will start approaching replacements in time for the January transfer window.
Head of that list is Rafael Benitez, the Spaniard who hasn’t worked since being dismissed by Inter Milan in 2010. The former Liverpool boss who won the Champions League in his first season at Anfield was approached to replace Andre Villas-Boas last season, but declined what he perceived to be a caretaker role.
Abramovich is known to favour Pep Guardiola or former boss Jose Mourinho, but could approach Benitez again if neither can be persuaded to take up the reins at Stamford Bridge.
The return of Mourinho has been floated a number of times since Real Madrid won the Spanish League last year, with the Portuguese manager frustrated with backroom politics and, having seen off Guardiola’s Barca, seemingly lacking the same focus and motivation this season.
Wednesday’s AS newspaper was again suggesting that Mourinho wants a return to London, fuelled by his daughter's decision to study there next year, with Chelsea and Tottenham – unconvinced by Villas-Boas thus far – both eager to speak to him.
As for Di Matteo, he understands the pressure.
“I am responsible for the results,” he said after the Juventus game. “I am still here and as far as I’m concerned I will be for the future. I’m going to keep working.
“At the moment, I am here and I think I will be for the future.”
That night in Munich must seem an awfully long time ago.