Under Andre Villas-Boas it was a long-term project at Chelsea; with Roberto Di Matteo it is a dash to the end of the season, competing on three fronts and with serious ground to be made up in the Premier League if the club are to claim fourth place. There is no time for feuds, which has meant that, as the games pile up, some of Chelsea's forgotten men are being called in from the cold.
In the Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Benfica on Tuesday night in Lisbon it was the turn of Salomon Kalou and Paulo Ferreira, two outsiders under Villas-Boas, to return to the big stage. The more teams that Di Matteo picks, the more it appears that he cannot have agreed with many of the decisions made by his erstwhile boss, Villas-Boas.
The goalscorer in Chelsea's 1-0 win was Kalou with just his fifth of the season – not surprising when you consider that, before he left for the African Nations Cup in January, he had featured in just eight games for Chelsea all season. Since then he has played in four out of seven of Di Matteo's matches in charge. The 26-year-old can be an erratic performer at times but, under Villas-Boas, he virtually disappeared from the first team.
Kalou said after Tuesday's game that he was frozen out because he refused to sign a new contract at the club. His existing deal runs out in June.
"I feel like maybe sometimes the club never gave me the opportunity to show what I can do. Hopefully this is a new beginning and everything will be all right," Kalou said.
Ferreira, 33, who has one year left on his existing deal at Chelsea is a different prospect. A veteran of Jose Mourinho's Porto team who came to join his manager at Stamford Bridge in 2004, his status at the club has been on the wane for years. "Roberto told me before the meeting that I could play this game," Ferreira said. "I was a bit [surprised] because I'd not been playing for a while and a game of this importance, quarter-finals, big game, I was not expecting that."
In fact he had not played since the defeat at home to Aston Villa on New Year's Eve and Tuesday was only his sixth appearance of the season in all competitions.
"I've worked hard every day, have been as much of a professional as I can to be in condition," he said. "I know I'm not in top form but I had to play with intelligence." His rehabilitation is a sign that Di Matteo wants everyone onside for the last six weeks.Reuse content