Jim White

Ruthless Roman will never be satisfied

The only real surprise is what took him so long. Why wait until November when he should have acted immediately after that night in Munich in May?

Even as the glitter of victory fell from the sky, had Roman Abramovich told Roberto Di Matteo that he didn't think he was good enough to manage Chelsea then at least it would have given ample demonstration of what we now know: there is nothing anyone can do to please the owner.

And there were we thinking that for a manager to survive in the Stamford Bridge dug out what he needed to do was win the Champions League. That was the thing the owner craved. That was, after all, what he had bought the club for: so that he could offer drinks on his yacht from the largest trophy in world football.

But no, now we discover not even that is enough. Over the years Abramovich has got rid of the great (Jose Mourinho) and the useless (Felipe Scolari and Avram Grant). He has got rid of those who won the double (Carlo Ancelotti) and those who never really had long enough to prove whether they were any good or not (Ande Villas-Boas and Claudio Ranieri). Now he has got rid of the man who delivered the one trophy none of the others could. Now he has got rid of the man who was carefully, skilfully and with great speed rebuilding the team into one of grace, technique and huge possibility.

But then what did we expect? Abramovich has taken his managerial approach to a new level. He lives by the knee jerk. He is the game's finest proponent of Tourette's sacking. If in doubt, defenestrate has long been his business model. And it served him well in the wild west capitalism of his homeland.

He didn't build his businesses. He acquired them by acting quicker and more decisively than anyone else. He was in the right place at the right time. And he has subsequently maintained them not by careful building as such, but by continuing to keep one step ahead.

Besides, he would argue — if he could be bothered to engage anyone in such argument — that managerial continuity may be enough for those old fashioned institutions like Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United, but Chelsea have continued to win despite all the blood on the floor and the pay-offs in the negative columns of the accounts.

Conservative observers may believe that the manager is the most important figure at any football club, but Abramovich is having none of that. He is the man who counts. Managers are simply there to be dismissed.

It is a dismal methodology that sadly, given the huge financial backing he can bring, shows no sign of abating. Never mind that Di Matteo was a good man, steeped in the culture of Chelsea, who behaved at all times with dignity and common sense. Never mind that he had established a pattern of play as bright and optimistic as any in the club's history. Never mind that the fans found in him a proper figure around whom they could gather.

He was simply never going adequately to second guess what the owner wanted. And the owner was never going to tell him. So when Chelsea lost to Juventus and he said it was his fault, obviously he had to go. That's the Abramovich logic.

It's the logic of the junkie, in which the next fix is the sole object of importance on the horizon. So what is the next fix for Abramovich? Clearly he would like some of that high grade Pep Guardiola. But the Spaniard is a man fully aware of his own mystique. He would be wary of jeopardising his place in the history of the game by engaging in a battle which he simply cannot win.

He knows he would be sacked by Chelsea simply because everyone is. And judging by what happened to Di Matteo, managerial life expectancy at the Bridge seems to be shrinking. Within months of his arrival at the club the rumours would begin: Guardiola had lost the dressing room, the senior players didn't like his approach, he was failing to get the best out of Fernando Torres. And once they start, a manager cannot retrieve his position. He will be gone within weeks.

So who will Abramovich go for? Rafa Benitez? Why not? He may not be the best there is out there, he may be loathed by the regular Chelsea goer for his Liverpool connections, but he was the last manager who got anything out of Abramovich's vanity purchase Torres. Which seems to be what counts in Abramovich's private box.

In any case, it doesn't really matter whether he is good enough for the job or not. One thing we know after the ridiculous removal of Roberto Di Matteo: whatever he does, the new man won't be around for long.