Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has a message for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich: Keep Roberto Di Matteo no matter how Saturday’s Champions League final between them ends.
Di Matteo has only temporary status as Chelsea manager and could lose his job even if his team wins the final.
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”Chelsea is a top club in Europe and I can understand why they would want to have a coach with image, who has won something. But Di Matteo makes a good impression on me and I’d tell Abramovich to stick with him,” Heynckes said.
Heynckes himself was fired by Real Madrid in 1998, days after leading the team to its first European title in 32 years. But the 67-year-old Bayern coach says that was a different situation.
”I’d already made up my mind in December that I would leave at the end of the season,” he said Friday, one day before facing Chelsea at Bayern’s own stadium.
Heynckes said he was not surprised by the progress Chelsea has made under Di Matteo.
”They needed a coach who could restore a good atmosphere in the locker room, they’ve become a team again,” Heynckes said.
Abramovich, a Russian billionaire, has invested heavily in Chelsea since buying the London club in 2003. Still, his club has failed to win football’s greatest prize, losing in the semifinals four times and the 2008 final in a heartbreaking penalty shootout against Manchester United in Moscow.
Di Matteo took over when Andre Villas-Boas was fired following a 3-1 loss to Napoli in the last 16.
The Italian-born coach is 41 and pales compared to Heynckes in terms of experience. But Heynckes doesn’t think that will make a lot of difference.
”It’s not decisive who has more experience as coach, it’s nothing to do with age,” he said. ”Chelsea has very experienced players with long years of distinguished service in the Premier League.”
But Heynckes does acknowledge that there are areas where his vast experience as player and coach can benefit his players as they seek to win Bayern’s fifth title.
”I can pass on my great experience to them, help them remain calm, to be patient, how to concentrate,” he said.
Heynckes is seeking to become the fourth coach to lead two different clubs to win the European Cup, which was rebranded as the Champions League in 1992. The others are: Ernst Happel of Austria (Feyenoord 1970; Hamburger SV 1983), Ottmar Hitzfeld of Germany (Borussia Dortmund 1997; Bayern 2001), and Jose Mourinho of Portugal (FC Porto 2004; Inter Milan 2010).
”It’s a historic chance – and probably the only time – to win at home and clinch the title again after 11 years,” he said.
Although Bayern is considered the favorite, Heynckes said it would be better to remain modest.
”I am not euphoric. There are no favorites in such matches. Chelsea are a very organized and experienced team, with very good players and they beat the best team in the world (Barcelona) with 10 men to get here,” Heynckes said. ”It may be a little advantage that we are playing at home, but I expect a very close match.
”I don’t think Chelsea will play ultra-defensively as they did against Barcelona. We have great respect for Chelsea but if we play like we did in the semifinal in Madrid, we can win.”