Latest Transfer Update at 21-04-2012
Didier Drogba: Praised by Di Matteo
DI MATTEO BACKS DROGBA TO GO ON
Roberto Di Matteo says Didier Drogba could play for Chelsea for another two years as he defended the striker's play-acting against Barcelona.
Drogba's Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in the Blues' astonishing 1-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win on Wednesday night saw him praised and castigated in almost equal measure.
The veteran striker's matchwinning effort days after a man-of-the-match display in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final thrashing of Tottenham led his agent to claim Chelsea would now cave in to his demands for a new two-year contract.
Yet, reports on Friday morning suggest the club would jettison the 34-year-old - who rejected a one-year extension to his current deal - at the end of the season, regardless of his heroics.
Drogba insisted on Wednesday night he still had two or three years left at the highest level and Di Matteo agreed on Friday, saying: "Yeah, whether it's for Chelsea or somebody else."
Drogba is far from the only thirtysomething whose Chelsea future was in doubt, with Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and Paulo Ferreira also said to be on borrowed time.
Di Matteo pointed out there were plenty of examples of players who had starred at top clubs into their late thirties, including Manchester United duo Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, as well as Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola.
He added: "I'm happy with the team, with the squad that we have and with the way they are responding and performing - young, old, middle-aged, whatever you want to call it."
Di Matteo, who currently has no input on comings and goings at Stamford Bridge, added of Drogba: "You've seen him many, many years now over the course of his career here and I'm sure you've made your own assessment of what kind of character he is.
"He's been with the club a long time and he's part of the history of this club - like many players that we've had here - and he always will be.
"The final decision (over his future) is going to be the club's decision."
Di Matteo also saw no need to "have a word" with Drogba over his less well received antics against Barca.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed he had done just that with Ashley Young amid accusations of diving against the winger but suggested what went on at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night was much worse.
But Di Matteo insisted he had "fair players" and claimed Drogba took "a physical battering" against Barca, one which saw the Ivorian pick up a knee injury that left him in a race against time to be fit for the second leg.
Drogba's theatrical reaction to challenges made on him allowed Chelsea to run down the clock on Wednesday.
Di Matteo said: "Listen, you know how many times we were behind and other teams 'lost' time against us?
"You know how many times? Many times.
"Every team does that. Let me tell you, Barca do it as well."
The 41-year-old insisted he was against diving, however.
"Whether we can find way to eradicate it from our game, I'm not sure," he said.
"I think it would be nice, it would be fairer for everybody if we could.
"But it's been part of football for a long, long time."
He added: "The majority of players don't dive.
"It's a minority and we shouldn't generalise and put everybody in the same pot."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has suggested foreign players introduced diving to England.
But Di Matteo said: "It doesn't matter from what nationality you come."
"Lately, there have been a few issues about it. But there have been issues before as well in the season and in previous seasons.
"The issue's always been there. It's maybe a little bit more at hand now because of what's happened in the last couple of weeks but it's an issue that's always there."