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Welcome back di Matteo


Justin Marville in Miami

Welcome back di Matteo

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Chelsea’s players won’t publicly say they’re glad to see nor will they mince words about their current coach.
First team midfielders Michael Essien and Yossi Benayoun revealed they’re happy to have Roberto di Matteo back in charge of the Blues after the interim manager was finally appointed on a permanent basis last month following a successful stint towards the end of last season.
Both players expressed the sentiment in separate interviews at Florida International University during Friday’s launch of the Digicel Kick Start Clinic – a series which their club recently became a partner of.
“It’s not even a question of being happy [rather] than a question of him deserving it,” said Benayoun, when asked about his feelings on di Matteo’s appointment.
“I believe he did more than enough to get the job as he proved himself in one the most difficult times in Chelsea’s history.”
Rumours were rife surrounding di Matteo’s possible departure after billionaire club owner Roman Abramovic failed to sign the Italian manager to a long-term deal in the initial stages of the off season.
It was a shocking move, especially considering that di Matteo led the Blues to their first ever Champions League title – an even more stunning penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich in Germany – after guiding Chelsea to yet another FA Cup trophy in his three months as interim manager.
But Abramovic finally rewarded the former Italian midfielder with a two-year contract in June, ending any speculation that the Blues will be looking for an eighth different manager in six seasons.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with him [since he was appointed] but I will speak to him before the season starts,” said Essien to a field of reporters.
“[But] as you can see he did a great job, and it wasn’t easy for him to take over, but we delivered and everyone is happy, so everything ended perfectly.”
That storybook finish seemed the most unlikely of ends to a season in which the Blues endured one of their more miserable runs while falling to sixth place under then embattled first-team manager Villas-Boas.
There was even speculation that several senior players plotted Villas-Boas’ downfall after bringing his tactics into question before Abramovic. Villas-Boas then sat first-team stars Essien, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole for a Champions League fixture against Napoli in February before he was eventually relieved of his duties just one month later.
From there, it seemed di Matteo could do no wrong.
But he won’t be the only one looking for a successful return at Chelsea, as Essien currently hopes to bounce back from an injury-plagued year after failing to successfully recover from rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I had to get over injury last season but I am back on my feet and looking forward to this season,” Essien reported.
“I am very excited, [but] every season is that much tougher but we have our job to do, so we just have to work hard.”
Chelsea were set to wrap up their “Here to Play, Here to Stay” 2012 American tour with an exhibition game against Italian powers AC Milan last night at the legendary Miami Dolphins stadium.
It was their fourth exhibition in as many American states over a two-week period.

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