Chelsea have appointed Roberto Di Matteo as their full-time coach on a two-year contract. The Blues have moved to confirm the Italian as their permanent boss just three weeks after he led them to their first UEFA Champions League title while in interim charge.
Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas for the final 11 weeks of the season and inspired a stunning rejuvenation of a side that had been deemed too old, as they won the FA Cup before their famous penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.
Di Matteo, who turned 42 last month, was ecstatic to take on the role permanently. "I'm obviously delighted to have been appointed as manager and first-team coach," Di Matteo said. "We all achieved incredible success last season that made history for this great club. Our aim is to continue building on that and I'm already planning and looking forward to the squad's return for pre-season."
Despite Di Matteo's success there was speculation Chelsea would look elsewhere for a full-time boss, with Pep Guardiola apparently atop their wish-list following his departure from Barcelona. Owner Roman Abramovich was said to be keen to bring in Guardiola despite the Spaniard showing little interest in revoking his decision to take a year's sabbatical from the game.
Di Matteo the right man
Rumours Guardiola could be swayed grew stronger as the weeks passed since Chelsea's Munich triumph, but in confirming Di Matteo's appointment today chief executive Ron Gourlay labelled the former Blues midfielder the "right man to lead Chelsea onto further success".
Gourlay also revealed Di Matteo had been involved in the decision to make recent signings with the club having already made the big-money capture of Eden Hazard following the end of last season. "Roberto's quality was clear for all to see when he galvanised the squad last season and helped the club make history, and the owner and board are very pleased he will be continuing his good work," he said.
"We all believed he was a young coach with much to offer when we first asked him to take charge of team affairs in March and the manner in which he worked with us, the players and all the staff, and the success that followed, made him the clear choice when it came to selecting the person to take us forward in the seasons to come.
"We will be working closely with Roberto in the weeks ahead, some exciting signings have already been made and Roberto has had input into those. Although he has set the bar very high in the short time he has been in charge, we know that Roberto is the right man to lead Chelsea onto further success.
"We are already looking forward to the 2012/13 season which kicks off when Roberto, his staff and players return for pre-season."
Former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins, who left the club shortly before Di Matteo filled the same role, believes the decision to hire the 42-year-old full-time will bring much-needed stability to the Stamford Bridge club. "I'm delighted for him. It'll be nice to see that interim manager title now taken away," he said.
"I think Mr Abramovich was hanging on to see if Pep Guardiola wanted to come out from his year-long retirement. I think it's no secret he sees him as the man to take Chelsea forward. I don't think he has to change too much but I think there will be a few changes - with new players coming in whether it's the summer or in the December/January transfer window.
"Roberto in his wisdom selected older lads towards the latter stages of the season and it was fruitful. You need the senior players - your club is only as good as the senior players in it. They were playing with smiles on their faces and they got away with things (against Barcelona and Bayern Munich) through sheer persistence and endeavour.
"Roberto put a smile back in the dressing room. The confidence was pretty evident towards the end of the season. It's very important they bring a bit of stability back into the club and I think it'll go well for him.
"He's a former Chelsea player so the fans can relate to him as player and manager. It's not often you get a manager come in and within six months win the FA Cup and the Champions League. But now it's extremely difficult to surpass what you've already done. It's going to be a very tough season for him."