Di Matteo: I’m no dead man walking

Roberto Di Matteo has insisted he does not feel like a dead man walking ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

It was claimed this week that caretaker Blues boss Di Matteo was resigned to being snubbed in his bid to land the manager’s job full-time, regardless of the outcome of next Saturday’s showdown at the Allianz Arena.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay yesterday reassured Di Matteo no decision on his future would be made until after that game, but that was immediately followed by reports owner Roman Abramovich was hell-bent on persuading Pep Guardiola to take over this summer.

Asked this afternoon if he felt like a “goner”, Di Matteo said: “No, no, no. I feel part of this club.

“I focus on the team and the players, and what we’re looking forward to in the next eight days.”

’Dead man walking’ was the moniker famously given to the first manager jettisoned by billionaire Russian Abramovich, Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked after reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

Abramovich also had no qualms axing Avram Grant four years ago, despite the Israeli leading Chelsea to their first final.

Di Matteo has already improved upon both those feats by winning the FA Cup in what has been a real Houdini act since his appointment just over two months ago.

But his number one target was qualifying for next season’s Champions League and — having managed only a sixth-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League — he might have given Abramovich an excuse for overlooking him if he does not do so by winning next Saturday.

Asked if he felt his job was on the line, Di Matteo said: “I’m not thinking about that. It’s not about me, it’s about Chelsea. The players have a fantastic opportunity to achieve something very special.”

Admitting he personally would not have settled for an FA Cup win and failure to qualify for the Champions League upon his appointment, Di Matteo nevertheless had no regrets.

“Our schedule has been crazy,” he said. “We’ve played many more games than all our opposition, but I have no regrets. We have pushed the players and they’ve responded fantastically well.

“The effort and commitment from the players has been fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Sunday’s game could also be Didier Drogba’s last at Stamford Bridge, with the striker set to quit Chelsea this summer when his contract expires.

Gourlay yesterday said an 11th-hour agreement to extend it could yet be reached and Di Matteo insisted Drogba was “absolutely” still good enough to stay at the club.

Whether Drogba is involved or not on Sunday remains to be seen, with Di Matteo confirming he would field a team containing “one or two youngsters” for what is a dead rubber.

He and Drogba are certain to get a rousing send-off during any post-match lap of honour after their feats for the club both this season and before.

“I’ll always have a good relationship with the fans,” Di Matteo said.

“I’m an ex-player here. I’ve got a legacy and no-one would take that away.”


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