Chelsea Football Club took the decision on Wednesday to remove manager Roberto Di Matteo from his post after eight months in charge, a period in which the Blues won the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.

Dismissed | Roberto Di Matteo in appropriate pose after his side’s run of two wins from eight games, which brought about his departure from Stamford Bridge. (Image | Blue Champions)

Having made a strong start to the season and recruited exciting new players such as Oscar, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s form dipped over the past few weeks and following the 3-0 defeat to Juventus in midweek, the club now stands on the brink of becoming the first European Cup winners to be knocked out of the competition at the group stages the following year.

Owner Roman Abramovich decided to act after Di Matteo’s side won just two of their last eight games, and chose former Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez to replace the Italian as interim manager until the end of the season.

Supporters and pundits have rushed to the defence of Di Matteo, saying that he has been callously treated and even betrayed by the Russian billionaire, but is this not a bit of an overreaction?

Di Matteo knew what he was getting himself in for when he took the managerial post at Stamford Bridge after witnessing the players conspire to get rid of André Villas-Boas. Chelsea is a harsh, unfriendly place where any weakness is weeded out and second best is not an option.

At the moment, the west London side are not where Abramovich wants them to be, either domestically or in Europe. Trailing Manchester United by six points in November is, for a man that has ploughed so much money into the club, unacceptable. This, therefore, was his first crime.

Di Matteo’s second and far worse offence was to preside over a spectacular fall from pre-eminence in the Champions League.

Hounded out | The experience of André Villas-Boas, who grimly looks on before his sacking in February, should have let Di Matteo know what he was in for. (Image | BBC)

Damaging defeats to Juve and Shakhtar Donetsk have put the Blues on the cusp of being eliminated from the competition, a fate that would be of huge embarrassment to everyone concerned with the club.

There ought to be no argument over whether Abramovich had the right to make the decision he did. Of course the oligarch, who is the undisputed lord and master of everything in SW6, must act as he sees fit.

As a man who made his fortune in the harsh reality of post-Soviet Russia, he thinks little of brutal sackings. Indeed, they are par for the course.

Another excuse that Di Matteo is unable to adopt is that he has not been “supported” enough by the money men at Chelsea: for they more than backed him in bringing in his desired transfer targets, many of whom were acquired at great expense.

Pretty passing and quick counter-attacks are one thing, but football is a results game and Chelsea are the epitome of a results club. Abramovich thrives on success and, more often than not, it must be immediate.

The intense, confrontational, relentless way of life at Stamford Bridge was perhaps never suited to a man as decent and honest as Di Matteo. He maybe expected loyalty from the club that they were never prepared to give, and believed that results which were always going to be inadequate might be forgiven by those at the top.

Embarrassing | The 2-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine was a huge blow, and helped to put Chelsea on the brink in Europe. (Image | Daily Mail)

Not a chance. Recruiting Benítez as Di Matteo’s successor until the end of the season is a smart move in many ways, as he will certainly not incur the wrath of Abramovich by ostracising Fernando Torres, the pivot around which Chelsea appear to rotate.

While the supporters may not be convinced by the arrival of a man so potently associated with Liverpool’s numerous Champions League victories over Chelsea during the José Mourinho era, they are ultimately a fickle bunch and will be won over by success, not expansive play or exhilarating failure.

Sadly in modern football, a man who is able to fulfil the biggest ambition of his boss is not invincible, and cannot survive even a relatively brief and short-lived dip in form. Di Matteo chose to manage a big club, and he must accept that his employers do not show any loyalty, only a fearsome determination to succeed on all fronts.

Sir Alex Ferguson would never have survived under Roman Abramovich, because he would have been summarily fired before he had the chance to work his magic and bring title after title to Old Trafford.

However, given that under the exiled Russian owner Chelsea have won 10 titles in nine years, one cannot argue with the fact that his high-stakes, nobody and nothing is sacred, money-no-option strategy has paid off.

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