CHELSEA are refusing to give up in their bid to tempt Pep Guardiola to Stamford Bridge.
Roman Abramovich's advisers have opened a dialogue with Guardiola's representatives to establish the Barcelona coach's intentions at the end of this season when his current contract expires.
While Chelsea face a huge task to convince Guardiola to become their next manager, Abramovich is determined to continue in his efforts until the Spaniard decides to sign a new contract extension at Barca -- or, as he is also discussing, decides to take a season's sabbatical from football.
It is understood that, despite the obvious attractions of trying to bring Jose Mourinho back from Real Madrid, Abramovich has decided it might be a step too far for him, as well as an admission that he was wrong to sack the Portuguese coach.
Guardiola speaks fluent English and has confided in friends that there is an attraction for him in becoming a Premier League manager. The 41-year-old has found some of the political machinations at Barca, and the expectations of maintaining such a high standard, a strain at times. He has also spoken of the difficulties in continuing to motivate the same group of players.
Guardiola is minded to take a year off should he leave the Catalan club at the end of this campaign, although there is also pressure -- not least from the Barca players -- on him to sign that new deal.
Abramovich is stepping up his efforts to recruit a new manager as he plans a significant overhaul of the Chelsea squad this summer. Chelsea are in the early stages of considering which players should be signed and may delay their plans until a new manager is recruited. Nevertheless, Chelsea are thinking big.
There is the possibility of them making a €100m move for Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
Last night the Blues put one foot in the semi-final of the Champions League after Salomon Kalou was set up by Fernando Torres (left) to give them a precious away goal in a 1-0 quarter-final first-leg win at Benfica. (© Daily Telegraph, London)