Who next for Chelsea? Benitez, Grant and Redknapp favourites
Abramovich wants someone to warm the bench for Guardiola, but will he want the job?
ROBERTO DI MATTEO has paid the price for Chelsea's disastrous defence of their Champions League crown and has been sacked by owner Roman Abramovich. He is the eighth Blues manager to exit the hot seat since 2004, even though he delivered the ultimate prize, the European Cup, to Stamford Bridge.
Di Matteo had presided over a dismal run of two wins (one in extra time) in eight games, yet there is widespread incredulity at the dismissal.
"Even by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic's sky-high standards, the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo is ruthless," says Phil McNulty of the BBC. On Twitter, Sun football writer Dean Scoggins offers congratulations to the Chelsea owner on a "grand slam". He has now sacked managers who have won the Premier League, the FA Cup, League Cup, World Cup and the Champions League. Others point out that he could add the Europa League to that list.
And despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth about Ambramovich, much of the attention is on who will replace Di Matteo in the Chelsea hot seat.
"The decision makes it even more abundantly clear that Di Matteo was only keeping the seat warm for the first love of Abramovich's footballing life, former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola," says McNulty. But he wonders if the Spaniard would want to work at a club where he would have no job security.
"[Pep] Guardiola has long been Abramovich's first-choice to take over from Di Matteo," agrees The Daily Telegraph. "If Guardiola insists he wants to stick to his plan of taking a season's sabbatical from football - and not return to management before next summer - Abramovich will look for a short-term replacement."
The bookies have taken note of that and have installed former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez as favourite for the job. According to the Telegraph, Chelsea fans, shocked to see Di Matteo get the bullet, "will be stunned" that former boss Avram Grant has been linked to the job. Neither Benitez nor Grant would be welcomed by the fans, says the paper.
The Daily Mail points out that Benitez at least knows how to get the best out of misfiring striker Fernando Torres, having worked with him at Liverpool. But the paper does not expect the former Anfield boss to get a long-term deal. Instead he will be offered a "lucrative contract until the end of the season".
Benitez turned down a short-term deal at Chelsea when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked last season, insisting he wanted a long-term contract. But things could be different this time, says The Independent. "Having rejected a number potential jobs, from Aston Villa to Sampdoria, because of their proprietors’ unwillingness to back him with serious cash, Benitez is aware that he has been out of the game for far too long and badly needs to get back in. It will be two years next month since he parted company with Internazionale."
Another outside bet for the job could be Harry Redknapp, recently linked to QPR and Ukraine. The former Spurs boss is the bookies' third favourite to take over, but Sport.co.uk notes that although he would be a popular choice with the fans "Redknapp doesn't quite have the pedigree Chelsea are looking for". ·