Is Abramovich running out of managerial candidates?

Well, Roberto Di Matteo lasted longer as Chelsea manager than some.

The Italian’s 262 days in the job make him the fourth longest-serving of the eight men who have held the Chelsea manager’s job since the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003.

It doesn’t make the decision to sack him any easier to understand though, and once again raises questions of who exactly Chelsea’s Russian owner is capable of trusting over a period of time that is long enough to bring about stability to the club.

Di Matteo was appointed on the back of a successful time as caretaker that included success in the Champions League and FA Cup.

His appointment was in many ways similar to that of Avram Grant, who stepped in following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho and led Chelsea to their first ever Champions League final – one which was lost only due to John Terry’s missed penalty kick.

Grant’s failure to land the Premier League title failed to earn him a permanent contract however, and the highly rated Luiz Felipe Scolari took over. Though even Scolari’s reputation as one of the world’s top coaches couldn’t help him survive once Chelsea hit a bad run of form in January of 2009.

Next was one of the most decorated coaches still involved in the game, Carlo Ancelotti – a man of vast experience and double-winner of the Champions League with Milan. His task was to bring that very trophy to Stamford Bridge. A domestic league and cup double in his first season might have been enough to earn a second year at the helm, but absence of any further silverware meant only one thing the following spring.

Following the failure of an experience coach to live up to impossible expectations was a shift to the inexperienced Andre Villas-Boas. It was supposed to represent a change of approach, with less pressure to deliver instant results and an emphasis on phasing out the old guard and freshening up the team.

That didn’t work, either. Senior players were unhappy, and weren’t afraid to say so. Villas-Boas out, Di Matteo in, and what followed under the leadership of a man whose only previous managerial experience was during a short-lived reign at West Bromwich Albion, defied footballing logic, given what had gone before.

On the verge of Champions League exit in March, Chelsea’s fortunes turned dramatically and thanks to a combination of solid defensive performances and wasteful finishing by their opponents, the west Londoners overcame the challenge of both Barcelona and Bayern Munich to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history.

In doing so, they were the first team to ever triumph in Europe in the same year as being the sixth best team domestically. History may  have been achieved, though there was clearly work to be done for Chelsea to do in order to have any chance of repeating their achievements, or returning to a position of challenging for the Premier League title.

Much of the necessary reinforcements looked to have been in place with a massive programme of spending during the summer to bring in stars such as Eden Hazard and Oscar, both of whom played a part in propelling Chelsea to the top of the league in October.

But once again, Abramovich has wielded the axe after a relatively short period of poor form – and the man who played a major role in helping Chelsea become champions of Europe has become the first Premier League boss to lose his job this season.

There should be no talk of any crisis at Chelsea, but with Abramovich again showing the impatience he has become notorious for, there will certainly be questions of whether anyone is capable of matching the colossal expectations that will be placed upon them.

Pep Guardiola may have been the most successful manager in Barcelona’s history, but could even he replicate that at Chelsea, or thrive at a club where so many other managers have tried and failed?

The list of other top managers who may could be tempted is much shorter than when the Chelsea have appointed managers in the past – in part because they’ve tried so many of the biggest names already.

Fabio Capello is one who hasn’t yet had his opportunity, and both Harry Redknapp and Rafa Benitez will be mentioned due to their immediate availability.

Guardiola would be the fans’ choice, but would be forgiven for considering the job is one which has too much risk. And unless Abramovich, prior to sacking Di Matteo, has already been in contact with a potential successor, he may find that there aren’t too many other managers willing to take such a gamble, either.

If that is the case, he’d have only himself to blame.

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