Nine years ago when Romam Abramovic bought Chelsea from Ken Bates, his desire was to see Chelsea become a global brand both in England and Europe. After spending more than a billion dollars on the club and hiring and sacking eight managers, Chelsea has finally won the holy grail - the Champions League; one trophy Abramovic has longed for the most. So what next for this Chelsea team?
The future of Roberto Di Matteo is still in doubt even after winning the Champions League and FA Cup just three months after being put in charge of Chelsea. Di Matteo has been the most successful interim manager in Chelsea’s history. What the self proclaimed ‘special one’ Jose Mourinho could not achieve with Chelsea in three years; Di Matteo has done so with Chelsea in three months.
Better coaches with more experience and better resume had previously managed Chelsea under Abramovic ,Claudio Ranieri, Filipe Scolari, Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas Boas but were all fired for failing to bring the Champions League to Chelsea. But the Italian has achieved the unthinkable.
Three months ago, the Chelsea team was in a mess under Andre Villa Boas and there was tension between the old guards and the coach as he isolated them from the team. Chelsea was on its worst run of form in the league since Roman Abramovic took over Chelsea.
The Portuguese was fired and replaced with his assistant Di Matteo whose only experience in the top flight league was managing West Brom. He brought back the old guards like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole into the fold and the performances of the team began to pick up.
Against all odds, they defeated tournament favourites and defending champions Barcelona in the semis before lifting the cup at Bayern Munich’s own ground the Allianz Arena.
Pundits believe Di Matteo has done everything to earn him the permanent job at Chelsea but it’s no secret that Roman Abramovic wants former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to manage the team. Guardiola has however said he is taking a one year sabbatical from the game. It remains to be seen whether his sabbatical move would deter the Russian as he may offer Guardiola an offer he cannot refuse.
Chelsea went into the history books becoming the first team from London to win the Champions League, but this Chelsea team will not be remembered as a great team and their defensive approach has not won them many fans. Many still argue Chelsea was only destined to win the Champions League claiming luck since the second round was their greatest asset.
Against Napoli, the Italians headed to Stamford Bridge with a 3-1 advantage and played with reckless abandon in the second leg putting on one of the worst defensive displays by an Italian team and losing 4-2 at the Stamford Bridge.
Against Benfica in the quarter finals, after winning the first leg 1-0, Chelsea was in the back foot for most of the game at Stamford Brigde against the Portuguese and were lucky to have escaped with a win in the second leg despite Benfica playing the majority of the game with 10 men.
In the David Vs Goliath clash in the semi final between Barcelona and Chelsea, the Londoners defended from the first minute to the end and scored from the only chance they got in the game. Barcelona hit the woodwork three times in the game and was unlucky not to get something out of the game.
In the second leg after trailing the Catalans 2-1, Barca had a penalty but Messi who had always been reliable missed the penalty that should have taken Barca 3-1 up and possibly into the finals.
In the finals they had just one shot on target as the Germans laid siege on their goal for the entire game. Robben had a chance to win the game for Bayern when they were awarded a penalty in extra time but just like Messi missed the spot kick taking the match to penalties which Chelsea eventually won. Arguably, Chelsea was not the best team in the just concluded Champions League they won. ‘Pure luck’ seems to be the English team’s likely middle name.
Some fans argue that defence is also part of football and Chelsea won based on the determination of the players. Dutch legend, Johan Cruff lambasted Chelsea’s negative tactics enroute to winning the trophy. He said: “Only Chelsea fans will be happy with this.”For the rest, nobody can be happy with the outcome of the Champions League final. What especially bothers me is that a football team can forget everything and still win.”
Overall, Chelsea needs to move on from this Champions League success to the next stage of building a new team and letting some players go. They cannot rely on luck to win the Champions League again and if they wish to be genuine contenders next season.
Didier Drogba can lay claim to being the greatest player in the history of the club but it’s time to move on. The Ivorian at 34 is past his prime and and has said he is leaving the club. Observers reason the likes of Salomon Kalou, Micheal Essien, Paulo Ferrera, Florent Malouda and possibly Frank Lampard could be shipped out of the club next season for hungrier, younger players to be brought in to ensure that the team remains competitive in the league and Champions League next season.
Better still, there could be more drama ahead in the club with Abramovic’s resolve to win at least three more UEFA Champions League.