Was the wrong Italian Roberto fired in England?
Italian Roberto Di Matteo got the boot this week as manager of Chelsea after a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Juventus in Champions League action. Though still with a slight chance of advancing to the knockout phase of the world’s most competitive club tournament, it looks fairly certain that the Blues will become the first defending champs to be dumped out at the group phase of the following tournament.
Though not exactly a surprise – as Chelsea have troubled both in the CL and EPL as of late – it looks like Roman Abramovich might have been premature again with the sacking. In the macro view, Di Matteo didn’t even get a third of a full season at the helm of the team after delivering its first ever Champions League title earlier this year in true Cinderella fashion, overcoming far superior side in both the semis (Barcelona) and final (Bayern Munich)
At the same time, another Italian, Roberto Mancini, seems to be getting a relative pass despite two successive failures in the Champions League stage with Manchester City. Granted, Man City is the defending champion in the EPL and again leads the league, but with the talent they have assembled at the Etihad Stadium, and the pathetic display for two years running in the CL, it seems surprising that his departure is not imminent.
More than its CL results, it’s the manner in which City has played that has been most disappointing. Despite amassing a wealth of riches on the roster, the team lacked spirit against Real Madrid as they were practically run off their home pitch in the first half and needed a dubious penalty to be awarded to manage a draw. In truth, throughout the entire group phase with the exception of their first match they have been similarly lethargic.
Man City has a habit of falling behind early, which speaks to the team’s readiness before the match, something which falls squarely on the shoulders of the coach.
While Di Matteo had been a stoic leader, defending his players and acting the part of the leader, Mancini is the ringleader of a veritable circus at Man City.
He has trouble handling his players (remember Carlos Tevez last year, and Mario Balotelli always, although everybody has problems with SuperMario) and he himself makes ill-advised statements which add to the embarrassment. He talks about other coaching offers and then expresses anger when the historically dogged English press repeatedly questions him about it.
If any of the two Italians should have been given more slack, surely it should have been Di Matteo. Both have won on a big stage, but Di Matteo has done so with less (although Chelsea’s squad can hardly be considered to be void of star players). The two have different pedigrees, with Di Matteo’s appointment more of a stopgap move last year, while Mancini was brought in after winning several titles at Inter, and that might explain why one Roberto is still coaching and other other is looking for a job.
It’s a pity Di Matteo’s sacking couldn’t have waited just a week. That way the two Italians would have matched wits in a battle to the death as City travels to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Unfortunately, new hire Rafa Benitez – who interestingly enough took over Inter after the departure of Jose Mourinho, who had taken over for Mancini – will be in charge of Chelsea, as is his carpet bagging specialty… but that’s another story.