Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea's interim manager, paid tribute to Pep Guardiola yesterday, three days after inflicting the remarkable Champions League defeat which led to the Spaniard's departure from Barcelona.
"He's a role model for our generation in terms of the success he's achieved in such a short period of time," Di Matteo said, complimenting Guardiola's "methods as well, to be able to make his team play the way they had. I'm not sure anyone else can replicate that".
There was real sympathy from Di Matteo for the man who is leaving Barcelona after four successful, but draining, years. "He knows what he does," Di Matteo said. "He's a fantastic man, person. He's had such tremendous success and has decided what is probably best for himself, his career and probably his family."
Guardiola is taking some time away from the game, but Di Matteo sounded confident that he would return. "He is his own man," Di Matteo said. "He's made a decision based on what is best for him. We have to respect that. I'm sure sooner or later he'll be back working again. He's a great guy, a young man as well with many years ahead of him."
It is unlikely that Guardiola will be short of offers of employment – Roman Abramovich is said to be interested in taking him to Chelsea – but Di Matteo was uncertain whether Barcelona's unique approach could be repeated elsewhere.
"History tells us it's difficult to replicate the culture of a club into a different club," Di Matteo pointed out. "So he might be the first one to do it. But if you look back at history, it seems as if it's been different."
When asked whether he might even consider returning to the assistant manager role, which he held underneath Andre Villas-Boas at the start of this season, Di Matteo did not rule it out. "When I decided to become a No2 I didn't look at it as a step backwards," he said. "I thought it was an exciting journey for myself, to be able to work with one of the best coaches in European football and for this club, which is in my heart. Sometimes in life you take a step back and two forwards. Whatever happens in the future, I'll think about it and see what is the right choice."
Di Matteo will have to go into the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on 19 May without two of his most reliable defenders in John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. Both are suspended, Terry for a red card against Barcelona on Tuesday and Ivanovic for the accumulation of yellows. Di Matteo revealed yesterday that he chose not to remind Ivanovic before the semi-final second leg in the Nou Camp that he was one booking away from missing the final.
"I think that I decided not to tell them because I wanted them to focus just on the game, and there isn't an issue with any of the players," Di Matteo said. "As you saw the other night, you can be booked for anything. You have to focus on the task you have to do."
With Raul Meireles and Ramires also missing for picking up two yellow cards, Di Matteo added that he would like to see Uefa's rules changed in future. "I do feel disappointed that all these players are going to miss the final," he said, with Bayern also missing three players. "It would be good that both teams would have the whole squad available for the final. That would be the best measure. They might have to look at the laws for the future."
Chelsea host Queen's Park Rangers tomorrow in the Premier League, and Di Matteo promised he would not be distracted by next week's FA Cup final against Liverpool or the Champions League final. "We'll have to go full blast while we theoretically have a chance to finish in the fourth spot," he said. "It'll be a tough game because they're fighting against relegation, and we know how hard it is to play a team fighting against the drop. We experienced that against Wigan recently."