Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea Ready to Throw in the Towel in Fight for Guardiola

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea Ready to Throw in the Towel in Fight for Guardiola

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Johnson

CHELSEA are already prepared to concede defeat in their bid to sign Pep Guardiola as their next permanent manager and are now considering other options.

Guardiola has confirmed he would like to return to coaching next season -- having quit his role at Barcelona last summer -- once his year-long sabbatical comes to an end.

It is believed that he has made taking charge of a Premier League club his priority but he is set to snub a move to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has pursued Guardiola for the past 18 months and tried to convince him to join in the close season after Roberto di Matteo had led the club to victory in the Champions League.

The Russian multi-billionaire was hoping the former Spain international would take charge this summer and was looking to offer a salary worth [pounds sterling]15million-a-year to convince him to move to west London.

Chelsea have been fully aware that they faced stiff competition for Guardiola's signature, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal all linked to the 41-year-old, as well as French giants Paris Saint Germain.

Unlike Chelsea, who are under the guidance of interim first-team coach Rafael Benitez, all four of those clubs have permanent appointments in place. However, for various reasons, there are doubts over the futures of Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini, Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti and speculation that they could leave their posts at the end of the season.

Guardiola is respected as one of the best coaches in the game and Chelsea privately fear he has already decided to go elsewhere. The fact they have had nine different managers at the helm during the Abramovich era has not helped, especially as Di Matteo was fired only six months after lifting the European Cup.

Benitez is still hoping he can get the job on a full-time basis and is looking to win major silverware this season to convince the board, starting with the Capital One Cup in which they play the first leg of a semi-final against Swansea tomorrow.

They are also in the last 32 of the Europa League, having crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage, and can look forward to an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Southend or Brentford. …

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