independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Top-four spot the priority - Gourlay

Chief executive Ron Gourlay wants Chelsea to secure Champions League football

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay has reiterated the club's focus remains on securing Champions League football next term before a permanent managerial appointment is made.

Rafael Benitez, whose side take on Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday night, was appointed interim boss after the Blues became the first Champions League holders to exit the competition at the group stage earlier this season.

Gourlay, who was speaking in Kuala Lumpur while promoting the forthcoming tour, said the status quo remains for now, with Benitez on course to fulfil his brief. "Achieving one of the Champions League qualification slots is very important to this football club," Gourlay said on chelseafc.com.

He added: "Our whole philosophy is based on success on the football field and we have been doing everything in our power to ensure one of these slots. We want to be pitting ourselves against the top clubs in Europe next season."

Former Liverpool manager Benitez was never a popular appointment at Stamford Bridge and confirmed last week he would be leaving at the end of the campaign, in order to encourage supporters to back the team, rather than barrack him.

That rant, coupled with his criticism of the 'interim manager' title, led to suggestions the Spaniard could depart prior to the end of the season, while speculation of a permanent replacement for Roberto Di Matteo has been incessant.

Gourlay said: "We said from day one that Rafa was coming in as interim manager to the end of the season.

"It is important that we remain focused on the job in hand which is qualifying for the Champions League and then at the end of the season we will sit down, have a look at the situation and we will determine how we go forward."

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