Gourlay tells Di Matteo: You’re still in the hunt

Roberto Di Matteo was yesterday reassured no decision would be taken over his Chelsea future until after the Champions League final.

Caretaker Blues boss Di Matteo was reportedly resigned to being snubbed in his bid to land the job full-time, regardless of the outcome of the final against Bayern Munich in eight days time.

But Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said yesterday: “The club said from day one when he came in as interim manager that we would assess things at the end of the season.

“We’ve not changed our approach.

“Robbie is completely on board with that and the last person who’s going to put any pressure on the team at this stage is me.”

Gourlay refused to confirm whether Di Matteo had done enough to make it onto any shortlist, despite admitting the Italian had overseen a “fantastic turnaround” in Chelsea’s fortunes since being handed the reins just over two months ago.

Even before reaching the Champions League final and winning the FA Cup, Di Matteo earned the backing of most supporters to be appointed Andre Villas-Boas’ permanent successor.

Gourlay said: “We take the fans’ views into account in most instances.

“But, at the end of the day, we’ll look at the complete picture and we’ll see what the owner and the board think is the best way forward for the football club in the future.”

Failure to win the Champions League would certainly give owner Roman Abramovich an excuse for dispensing with Di Matteo, who would have failed to achieve his minimum target of qualifying for next season’s competition thanks to a lowly sixth-placed finish in the Premier League.

“It’s certainly not where we set out to be at the start of the season,” said Gourlay, who refused to go as far as some of Chelsea’s players by branding such an outcome a “disaster”.

“I don’t think we talk about disasters at this stage because we’ve still got the opportunity of turning this into the most historic season for the football club.”

However, Gourlay all but admitted it could not be considered a successful season if Chelsea ended it out of the Champions League for the first time since Abramovich bought the club nine years ago.

“If we won the FA Cup and Champions League final then, yes, we would’ve turned around our season and it’ll be a fantastic end to a season which has, in parts, been very, very difficult,” Gourlay said. “We’d sit down and we’d look at the whole season and we’d try to correct the things that went wrong in the first place and make sure we learned from any mistakes.”

One of those mistakes was the doomed reign of Villas-Boas, who was charged with transforming the way Chelsea played and paid the price when it all went horribly wrong.

Going back to basics has paid off spectacularly for Di Matteo, but Abramovich appears wedded to the idea of getting the Blues to play more like Barcelona.

Gourlay said: “The goal is to play the way that we want Chelsea to play. We’ve made no secret of that.

“We want to play attractive football, we want to make sure we’re in the top competitions, we want to make sure we’re competing in all areas with the elite teams around the world, and we want to do it the Chelsea way.”

As well as the ‘Barcelona in blue shirts’ mantra, there has also been talk of Abramovich wanting a mass clearout of the old guard this summer to create a ‘hungry, young team’.

Gourlay said: “Our strategy is to get the right balance.

“Speculation about major clean-outs is certainly not coming from Chelsea Football Club.”

Any cull would likely include 34-year-old Didier Drogba but Gourlay revealed fresh contract talks with the striker would take place after what could be his final game for the club in Munich.

He said: “Didier and the rest of the team are completely focused on what we’ve got to achieve in the next week and, once that’s finished, we’ll sit down.”


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