The excellent recent run of results for Chelsea, following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas' sacking, has led to calls from the players for interim manager Roberto Di Matteo to be offered a permanent contract.
The squad has been unanimous in crediting the club's turnaround in form and results, including their Champions League semi-final win over Spanish giants Barcelona, to the work of their 41 year old manager, whose performance will certainly not have gone unnoticed by the Blues' billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. In addition to the Champions League final, Di Matteo has also led his side to the finals of the FA Cup.
The Italian was initially hired on a one-year contract as one of Villas-Boas' assistants. However, after the Portuguese was fired, following the club's defeat to West Brom, Di Matteo was asked to sign on as first team manager till the end of the season; his contract period remains unchanged though, meaning he will be out of contract at the end of the season.
"We appointed Robbie until the end of the season and he's done a fantastic job, but we'll stick to our word and wait until the end of the season to see where we are. I think that's the best thing for everybody," the Guardian quoted Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay as saying
Meanwhile, Abramovich is reportedly still interested in bringing Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge, although the former Chelsea boss has moved to deny such rumours and all but confirm he will remain with Madrid for next season. In any case, that decision could well rest on Chelsea being able to offer Champions League football for the 2012 season. An earlier IBTimes UK report suggested France national team manager Laurent Blanc, Marseille manager Didier Deschamps and Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola could all be potential targets as well.
Di Matteo's permanent appointment has been backed by club's veteran midfielder Frank Lampard, who feels the Italian should be hired on a permanent basis, following his saving the Blues' season. Lampard believes Di Matteo has united the whole squad; something Villas-Boas failed to do.
"I can't speak highly enough of what he's done. He's been incredible. And if we win the Champions League, then Robbie deserves it for what he's done to the club. Nothing is impossible. It was meant to be impossible for Chelsea to beat Barcelona but we've done it," the Sun quoted Lampard as saying.
"And what we've done since Robbie was put in charge of the team is no coincidence. He has created a great atmosphere, he's got all the players performing, the camp is very happy and the results we've had over the past 15 games don't lie," he added, "The club will sit down with him in the summer and I am sure they will make the right decision."
Finally, Di Matteo has also been backed by former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, who was sacked despite taking Chelsea to the Champions League final in 2008.
"Roberto deserves one more year, at least, because he has done a good job with this team. To come to the final with this team is unbelievable. Abramovich sometimes thinks different. In my time we got to the final and played unbelievable football and he decided I would not continue. Sometimes you never know," the Sun quoted the Israeli as saying. Grant is now manager of Partizan Belgrade.
"He has sacked many managers but until now the football was on the way down and the team was on the way down. I think in his eyes the team is on the way up and Di Matteo has a chance to continue," he added.
Chelsea have lost just once in 15 games under Di Matteo and will be keen on continuing that run in the four remaining league games (against QPR, Newcastle, Liverpool and Blackburn), the FA Cup final (against Liverpool) and, of course, the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.