By Jason Burt
The 41 year-old took charge of his last game as Barcelona coach last night, the Spanish Cup against Athletic Bilbao, and is understood to be wavering on his announcement that he will take a season’s sabbatical.
Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, has made Guardiola his No 1 choice to take over at Stamford Bridge and has made several attempts to win over the Spaniard since sacking Andre Villas-Boas in March.
The chances of interim head coach Roberto Di Matteo being given the job full-time remain remote, despite him securing the Champions League and FA Cup. Di Matteo is aware that Abramovich is not convinced he is the right man to take Chelsea forward on a permanent basis and make the changes in the squad that he is considering. At the same time, Di Matteo has made it clear he does not want the job on only a one-year contract and is considering his options.
Earlier this week, Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said that Di Matteo, who is on holiday in the Caribbean, was in contention but it is understood that Abramovich wants to exhaust other options first. Chelsea would like to make an appointment within three weeks, certainly before the players return for pre-season training at the start of July.
Guardiola has long harboured an interest in working in England and Liverpool have also inquired about his availability as they search for a successor to Kenny Dalglish. Interestingly, Guardiola travelled to Paris recently to have lunch with former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, now in charge of Paris St-Germain, to ask him about what it was like working in the Premier League.
It was rumoured at that time that Guardiola was one of two coaches Abramovich met in the city although Gourlay insisted the club had not been in contact with him.
On the eve of last night’s cup final, Guardiola caused a stir when he said he was taking some time off to “recharge his batteries” and appeared to say he needed a “month” rather than “months” to rest. Either way, he added: “I will be ready to return if one club wants me and seduces me.”
Abramovich wants to ensure that Chelsea are at the head of the queue of suitors and will attempt to speak to Guardiola in the next few days.
The Russian has not give Di Matteo any guarantees over his future with the coach’s contract set to run out on June 30. Gourlay admitted that Chelsea run the risk of Di Matteo leaving if his future was not decided soon. Fabio Capello, Laurent Blanc, Rafael Benítez and Didier Deschamps have also been discussed by Chelsea.