Get Pep! Guardiola emerges as top target to replace AVB
Published 22:30 03/03/12 By Paul Smith
The Roman Revolution Part Eight is about to sweep through Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is poised to end the troubled reign of 34-year-old Andre Villa-Boas and turn to Spain for the answer to his sporting prayers.
Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola has emerged again as Chelsea’s No.1 target – but he will not be available before the summer.
Rafa Benitez, the former Liverpool manager, is being seen as a viable short-term boss to produce the kind of stability brought to the troubled club by the experienced Guus Hiddink three years ago.
The next switch in manager will be the eighth man to take charge during Abramovich’s reign.
The all-conquering Barcelona boss is stalling on signing a new contract at the Nou Camp, leading Chelsea to believe they could finally land the man who was their original target, ahead of Villas-Boas to become their boss, last summer.
Guardiola has always refrained from signing anything longer than a 12-month deal.
In the past, he has admitted that his time at the Nou Camp could be coming to an end.
Prior to the recruitment of Villas-Boas, Chelsea were close to sealing a deal to bring Guardiola to Stamford Bridge.
Insiders at Stamford Bridge maintain that it’s a question of when, not if, Roman Abramovich pulls the plug on Villas-Boas.
Last weekend, rumours were rife that failure to beat Bolton in the Premier League would see him leave within 24 hours. A 3-0 home win saved him.
But Chelsea were yesterday outplayed by the rampant Baggies, who deserved to win by a wider margin.
And AVB, who cost Chelsea £13.3million in compensation from Porto last summer, admitted he doesn’t deserve a vote of confidence.
He said: “Am I under more pressure? I have to accept that.
“The owner has the power to decide and only the owner has the power to say something. We just have to go on with the job.
“West Brom were far, far superior to us. Every defeat with Chelsea puts several times more pressure on any manager.
“But if I didn’t believe I was the man to take the club forward, I would have left by now.”
Chelsea’s appalling run of just one win from their last seven games has left AVB looking like a broken man.
Even he admits that a vote of confidence from Abramovich would be pointless now.
AVB said: “Do I think it would help for the owner to come out and back me? No, not at this moment.
“At the moment, we just have to go on with our jobs and everybody must do better, the players and the staff. We have to improve.
“There is no need for the owner to back us when things go like this and after such a poor display.”
Chelsea are facing troubles on and off the pitch. The club are investigating an incident in which a smoke grenade was alleged to have been let off in a junior changing room at the club’s Cobham training ground.
Only six players bothered to go to the visiting fans to acknowledge their support at the end.
And, for good measure, with an FA Cup replay at Birmingham coming on Tuesday, Ashley Cole is likely to be out with bruised ligaments.
Villas-Boas added: “We have another chance against Birmingham, so it is up to us to take it.
“At the moment, we have to win games, I am not concerned about the future, we have to solve the present things, which are more important.”
Baggies boss Roy Hodgson has been a manager for 36 years - two more than AVB has been alive – and had sympathy for the Chelsea manager’s current plight.
Hodgson said: “Andre’s come to Chelsea with high expectations and it hasn’t started as well, but it is early days. If he is going to be successful, he will need the time.”