Di Matteo to be Chelsea assistant


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The Independent Football

Chelsea are set to appoint former West Bromwich Albion manager Roberto di Matteo as assistant manager to Andre Villas-Boas.

The 41-year-old Italian, who is a much-loved figure by Chelsea fans having played 175 games for the club between 1996 and 2002, has been out of work since he was sacked by West Brom in February.

Di Matteo was interviewed for the vacant job at Birmingham City recently but was overlooked for former Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. Di Matteo is best remembered for scoring one of the most famous goals in the club's history, when his long-range effort hit the Middlesbrough net after just 42 seconds of the 1997 FA Cup final.

Di Matteo, who won 34 caps for Italy, also spent a year at MK Dons before moving to West Brom in June 2009. He led them to promotion to the Premier League in his first season in charge.

The club also remain in the hunt to sign the Brazilian teenage sensation Neymar, amid claims from Sao Paulo yesterday that five European clubs have met his contract's €45m (£40m) buy-out clause. Chelsea have spent two years scouting Neymar and last week the well-connected agent Pini Zahavi was flown to Brazil to try to close a deal that would makethe striker the most expensive teenager in football history.

Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro yesterday made the audacious claim that five European clubs have agreed to pay the Brazilian champions the €45m buy-out figure and are now cleared to agree terms with the player.

"We don't want to sell Neymar, but obviously there is a contractual clause they can pay," Ribeiro said. "Five European clubs have offered to meet this clause. I can't say which ones because that's an agreement between Santos and the clubs, but they're the most important European ones. We've given them permission [to speak to him]."

Speculation that Manchester City are one of the five is believed to be wide of the mark but Chelsea last night would neither confirm nor deny the reports about them from Sao Paolo. But they did confirm their interest in the 19-year-old, who comes on the recommendation of Roman Abramovich's personal talent-spotter Piet de Visser. Chelsea face competition for his signature from Real Madrid, who believe the much-hyped striker has the potential to become as good as Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Chelsea are Chelsea are also keen to open talks with Didier Drogba over a one-year contract extension. New manager Villas-Boas is understood to want to retain Drogba, 33, despite the arrival of Fernando Torres in January and the club's pursuit of other striking options. Villas-Boas is committed to attacking football, and is believed to have sanctioned a one-year extension to Drogba's current deal, worth £130,000 a week, which runs out in 2012. Marseilles are interested in re-signing Drogba, who spent one season there before going to Chelsea in 2004.