4. Roberto di Matteo (February 2012- November 2012)
Roberto di Matteo, a Chelsea legend from his playing days at the club, was AVB’s assistant during his brief reign. When AVB was sacked, Di Matteo was hired as interim Chelsea manager. Little was expected of the inexperienced Italian and efforts were already underway to find a suitable high profile successor to succeed Villas Boas. Little did Abramovich and Co know that this man would go onto inspire Chelsea to their most significant trophy yet – the dream of every Chelsea supporter, and Abramovich’s holy grail- the Champions League.
RDM led a squad of underdogs, powered solely by self-belief and an unshakable team spirit all the way to the final in Munich, where they beat heavily favoured Bayern Munich inside their own stadium. He also won the FA Cup, and despite finishing a lowly 6th in the Premier League, Chelsea also clinched qualification for the Champions League by virtue of being the champions.
All’s well that ends well? Not quite. In the euphoria over the unimaginable triumph, the hollowness of Chelsea’s victory was not lost on Abramovich. Seniors players such as John Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard had more or less led the team, even providing coaching advice to Di Matteo. The squad was still in shambles, the striker problem yet not solved. RDM was very hesitatingly hired on a permanent basis.
New signings did arrive, however – Oscar and Eden Hazard combined with Mata to form the trinity ‘Mazacar’. Goals flowed, and Chelsea were unbeaten in the opening 7 games of the season. However, bad results followed, particularly in Europe. Chelsea created unwanted history by becoming the first defending Champions to be knocked out in the group stages of the Champions League. Always looking for a good reason to fire the man who never had his confidence, Abramovich dropped the sword on Di Matteo after merely 9 months.