I was having a chat with a friend, @topeefresh yesterday after the sack of Roberto Di Matteo was announced and as a true Chelsea fan,he was really livid with rage at the decision. He was of the opinion that Roberto Di Matteo should have been given more time and that Roman Abrahamovic pushed the panic button too fast. But I replied emphatically; THERE WAS NEVER A PANIC BUTTON!
Truth is,you should never cross a Russian especially if he’s one of the richest men in the world. That is the story of Roman Abrahamovic and his former employee,Roberto Di Matteo.
Now I gotta hand it to Di Matteo. I respect him for what he’s done this season. A strong start to the season which has seen Chelsea finally play it’s most attractive football since the “Roman Revolution” started in the summer of 2003. All these while in strong contention for all domestic titles. The only blip is the fact that qualification for the knockout stages of the champion’s league is no longer in their hands.
And RDM has managed to achieve all these with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head.
The swiftness and ruthlessness of the manner in which he was fired was a huge shock to everyone. Especially considering the fact that he brought the evasive champions league trophy to Stanford Bridge where coaching heavyweights like Mourinho,Ancelotti,Hiddink etc have failed.
As soon as I got the news of RDM’s sack,I was shocked. A few hours later,I was still walking around in disbelief until the rumor of Benitez being tipped as a replacement started to filter in and something finally clicked. Then it finally made sense to me.
RDM was never supposed to get that job.
In Roman’s “Fantasy football” model,he needed a young team with a focus on world domination not so different from what Barcelona has and who better to guide the team than the brilliant Pep Guardiola.
The plan Roman had was simple; Shake RDM’s hand,thank him profusely,send him off into the sunshine and hire Guardiola to take over the building of this new team for the next level.
Problem was,it’s never that simple.
Guardiola was really being religious about his one-year sabbathical and there was NO way he was cutting it short.
He needed that one year and he made it clear that nothing was gonna change his mind.
So it was settled,Roman needed someone to steer the ship for just a year before Guardiola takes over and who better than the interim manager and club legend who had won the for the club football’s holy grail.
So he meets with RDM,asks him to manage the club for one more season being a club legend and blah blah blah…
I’m certain RDM sat there with that famous smile on his face listening without interrupting to what his boss had to say. After Abrahamovic was done,he must have asked RDM what he thought but RDM had different plans.
“No Deal!” he must have blurted out. He had just turned Chelsea’s most disastrous season post-Abrahamovic take-over to it’s most successful for God’s sake!!!
Who better than him to lead the club forward?
He argued that he was worth the job security of a full contract and that was what he wanted and deserved not the role of a one season sit-in nanny of a coach.
Roman must have glared at him and with his voice shaking,he must have told RDM to forget it. He would look for someone else to take that position. And that must have ended the meeting. RDM picks up his briefcase,buttons his suit and walks out disappointed.
When the news leaks out to the fans that he might not be hired,the shouts of protests could be heard across continents. From the Catholic Church to the Ku Klux Klan,even the players themselves all sounded in one voice that they wanted the Italian who won them the trophy many fans didn’t believe they were going to win in their lifetime. It promised to get real messy.
Abrahamovic blowing hot in the cheeks called for another meeting. He had been boxed into a corner with his hands tied behind his back and he did not like it one bit. He tried to reason with the Italian but RDM stood firm. So after a lot of bantering and wheelings and concessions,RDM got a full 2year contract to manage the Champions along with the sword of Damocles replacing the Halo over his head as a parting gift from the Russian.
When all was said and done,they both posed for the cameras wearing their fake smiles and shaking hands like best buddies. RDM’s clock started ticking from then.
To be fair,Abrahamovic never expected Chelsea to win the champions league this season. He invested in talented players who would be nurtured and in a couple of years be world beaters and he needed Guardiola’s skill to mould this team but RDM hijacked this dream using the club’s legend/champion’s league trophy gambit to blackmail the Russian into giving him a full contract. The Russian would not have been particularly fond of him and swore to take him off at the slightest pretext. He knew it was only a matter of time.
That time eventually came…
After having a non-impressive run in his last few games in the league which saw him walk a few steps down the stairs from 1st to 3rd,Chelsea made the trip to Turin to face the Italian champions who had recently had a 49-game unbeaten run to try to ensure qualification to the knockout stages.
It ended up being Di Matteo’s waterloo.
After seeing his team thrashed and trashed mercilessly by his fellow Italians,he didn’t even have the chance to mop things up and raise his players morale back up. With his bags packed,preparing to travel back to England with his players to prepare for another fiery encounter with the English Champions this time,his phone must have beeped with a mesage that he had a meeting with the boss immediately.
In Abrahamovic’s suite,I can imagine him smiling his most enigmatic smile as Di Matteo walks in. Then he sizes him up the way a predator sizes up a prey before pouncing. The Italian had finally made the mistake he had hoped he would make. What was even better? He made it faster than he hoped.
He then asks Di Matteo if he wanted a drink and the Italian declined. Roman then pours himself some vodka from a bottle on his desk,there was only one glass because he had expected the Italian to decline,walks to his desk and pulls out a revolver.
He asks RDM if he has ever heard of the term “Russian Roulette” before and the Italian answer in the negative. Then the Russian begins to explain what it meant as he unclips the revolver,empties all the bullets on his desk,pick one and puts it back in the magazine of the gun,clips it back in and spins the magazine of the revolver.
Right then and there with a smirk on his face,he “Fired” the coach.
(Laughing out loud) Sorry if my description seems a bit crazy but I have a crazy imagination and I just like putting it to work. I wasn’t there when this all happened but I’m certain if the real story be told,it’s going to be something exactly like this.
The thing is Roberto Di Matteo was walking on thin ice from the get go and I’m surprised he has done so well domestically considering the amount of pressure he has had to work under most especially a boss that didn’t like him and couldn’t wait to skin him and an under-performing world class striker who happens to be the most expensive player in the country.
Then Abrahamovic calls up another Trump card;he hires Benitez,a man whose CV is also quite impressive,but has been jobless since he got fired by Inter in December 2010. Everyone knows that Benitez would take a month contract job if he can find it so it’s a good deal for the Russian. Added to the fact that he could actually make Torres click again,therein lies the attraction.
The chelsea supporters are going to huff and puff and scream and wail but Benitez will lead the team from the dugout. And when his contract ends this summer,the fans will be so happy to see him go and when Abrahamovic unveils Guardiola as the new coach,there’s going to be wining,dining and wild partying in West London and all Chelsea fans are going to have to adore the Russian yet again. That’s the Russian’s masterplan and with any luck,the average Chelsea supporter would then have forgotten about the slit-eyed,sweet smiling Italian that led the club to unprecedented glory.
But RDM has still come good. His football resume is still very impressive and I’m certain he has learnt some lessons and he’ll be coaching a top club soon.
I wish him all the best though…
Buena Fortuna, Roberto Di Matteo!
N.B. This writer is a die-hard Manchester United Fan so don’t bother inducting me into Chelsea’s fan’s assembly.
Follow me on twitter @blog_aces.
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