Stability key to Chelsea's future after Champions League title

Now that Chelsea's long wait for a first Champions League title is over, the club needs something Roman Abramovich's wealth can't guarantee: stability.

Updated: May 22, 2012 12:20 IST
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London: Now that Chelsea's long wait for a first Champions League title is over, the club needs something Roman Abramovich's wealth can't guarantee: stability.

Just two days after winning the European Cup, uncertainty lingered at Stamford Bridge over the future of the side, delaying any grand plans to use Saturday's victory over Bayern Munich as a launchpad for creating a dynasty.

As the players tried to recover from the game and the celebrations on Monday, they weren't even sure which teammates will still be in the dressing room next season - or who will be coaching the team.

After taking over a struggling club in March, Roberto Di Matteo re-united a fractured side inside 11 weeks to deliver not only the Champions League, but also the FA Cup this month. However, he has still not been told by Abramovich whether he has done enough to earn a permanent contract as a manager. The temporary deal handed to the Italian after Andre Villas-Boas was fired expires next month.

The enduring euphoria in west London, though, wasn't prompting Abramovich and his executives to make any rash decisions about Di Matteo's future as they returned to their offices on Monday.

"We've got to sit down over the next week or two - or however long it takes (to decide) - because we've got to do what is right for the football club," chief executive Ron Gourlay told Sky Sports TV.

"He's done fantastically well and I'm very proud of him and what he's achieved," Gourlay added. "He's done exceptionally well."

Keeping Di Matteo would not only please the players, but would also likely be the cheapest option for Chelsea.

The cost of firing Carlo Ancelotti and hiring Villas-Boas in the last offseason was 28 million pounds (then $45 million). And Villas-Boas' severance pay will have added to the costly hiring of the 34-year-old Portuguese.

While Abramovich's wealth is estimated to be 9.5 billion pounds by the Sunday Times of London and the Russian has subsidized total losses of around 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion) at Chelsea since 2003, UEFA is putting the brakes on wealthy owners pumping unlimited cash into clubs for transfers and salaries.

In the last published annual financial results to June 30, Chelsea announced losses of 67.7 million pounds (then $109 million).

But unless those losses are curtailed, the Blues risk being thrown out of the lucrative Champions League when the new rules go into effect in 2014.

In an initial two-year monitoring period that started in July 2011, UEFA's rules allow clubs to make a loss up to €45 million ($57 million).

It is a delicate balance for Abramovich to now ensure the club doesn't breach the "financial fair play" regulations while ensuring the squad can be strengthened and improve on its sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

"We've seen him, year after year, invest and put his hand in his pocket and spend big money," chairman Bruce Buck said in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "He may go to another level now. I don't know his thought process."

Around €60 million ($77 million) alone in prize money will come from UEFA as a result of the title-winning campaign.

"It's important that we continue to get the right balance between being successful on the field, getting the energy of the football club where we want it to be and financial fair play," Gourlay said. "And that's a big challenge for me and the board ... to stay in the elite we have got to be able to compete."

Success on Saturday ultimately hinged on the performance of Didier Drogba.

The Ivory Coast striker equalized in the closing minutes against Bayern Munich to make it 1-1 after regulation, and then netted the winning penalty in the shootout.

The 34-year-old Drogba, though, might not be at Chelsea to build on the success, with his current contract expiring next month.

"If you ask every player at the football club, you'd hope that he stays," defender Gary Cahill said. "But he's obviously got his own decision to make. It was just fitting that he took the penalty that won us the cup, he got us back in the game late doors.

"He just seems to turn up in these big games and that's the kind of player he is."

One player, though, could be happy to see the back of Drogba: Fernando Torres has complained about his lack of action during his first full season at Chelsea.

Despite Torres demanding talks with the club after expressing his unhappiness publicly, Gourlay believes the Spaniard's comments might have been made in the heat of the moment after not starting in Munich.

"It's the emotion of the time ... you've got to take these things into account," Gourlay said.

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