The classic Arthur Miller play ‘Death Of A Salesman’ includes a scene where a man argues with his boss about his sacking. In his defence, fired Willy Loman argues that before, “there was respect and comradeship and gratitude in it. Today it’s all cut and dried.”
And how Roberto Di Matteo will be nodding his head in agreement. Once upon a time, contracts and agreements had value. Loyalty and passion carried substance; two trophies in a 10-month stint deserved applause. But not any more. Not in today’s society, and not with Roman Abramovich in charge.
Euphoria in Munich ends with tension just six months on. Off the field, another race row cropped up; on it, two losses, two draws and just the one paltry win in November was enough to undo all of Di Matteo’s triumphs. The results have not been favourable, but hardly was it a crisis enough to merit another chopping.
It appears frightening how times change. Just four weeks ago, media were lavishing praise on the Italian for the fluid style put in place and the confidence of the team. There was even light-hearted talk that we could do the septuple. But since the controversial defeat to Manchester United, things have gone up a notch in terms of difficulty. When the going gets tough, the tough really does get going.
But what’s more surprising is no-one really called for Di Matteo’s exit. Contrary to AVB, who reigned longer than some fans desired, RDM still had the backing of the vast majority of the fans. Indeed, he had to: fans appreciated his work.
So why did Roman not? One answer is Fernando Torres. The oligarch’s golden boy has cost the lives and reputation of three highly regarded managers. When Carlo Ancelotti failed, Andre Villas-Boas entered the stage. When AVB favoured Drogba, Roberto was drafted in.
And though the former Chelsea midfielder was given a two-year contract, he could have only possibly hoped for the one year. Talk was rife that Guardiola would take over in July 2013, with Di Matteo having a break clause in his contract.
But he wasn’t even afforded the assurance of one year. Some speculate Di Matteo was fired on the plane home from Turin, no place to settle a confrontation of such magnitude.
Chelsea is a special club. An exceptional case, some will argue. How can a player ‘win’ three times against their boss? If a player cannot perform under three bosses, surely it is not a case of mis-management striking three times, but a player well and truly out of everything, from confidence to ability.
It defies logic that a man who had a couple of good seasons at Liverpool could cause all this fiasco. When David Beckham threw a strop at United, it was the player who played the price. You wonder which player, if anyone, could displace Alex Ferguson managing Manchester United like a lord ruling his manor.
So why is Chelsea so easy to buckle? Put simply, rich men do not like admitting to mistakes. How could he give up on £50 million of his hard-earned money? He could not. A la Shevchenko, who rid the club of its greatest ever manager, Torres had rid Chelsea of the legend who oversaw the Blues’ greatest ever achievement.
And so another man will take the helm and have Take Four in the Chelsea soap opera that is re-igniting Torres’ failing career. After all, sacking managers hurt less on the pocket than giving up on £50 million.
It appears merciless. How Abramovich could lure Di Matteo to sign the contract in June yet sack him just three months into the new season defies any sense of humanity.
But Chelsea are a club where you learn to expect the unexpected. Surprises are a norm. To Di Matteo’s defence, Chelsea were still in the Champions League, FA Cup, Capital One Cup and Premier League. Add onto that the fact that a FIFA Club World Cup was to come nearer Christmas, another trophy could have been added to the illustrious list before the year was even out.
Having been in charge for 262 days, Di Matteo has lasted longer than his three predecessors (Villas-Boas (256), Avram Grant (247) and Scolari (223)). It appears unlikely that a Chelsea manager can ever last longer than two seasons, let alone the decades seen by Ferguson, Wenger or Moyes.
Stability is a key issue for the Blues. Time is a privilege and no right of yours in a highly tense business, with success demanded almost instantaneously. To his credit, Di Matteo started the mould of Chelsea becoming a newer, fresher side. But his downfall was his inability to be superhuman enough to win the Champions League, FA Cup, and change the shape of Chelsea Football Club overnight.
They say the best things come in small packages. However coldly it ends, Di Matteo’s reign will be remembered as short, but very sweet indeed. It may well be a long time before the Club find another man with as much passion, professionalism and dignity as Di Matteo.
Thank you, Robbie. Thank you for the memories.