Blues ready to go on new spending spree
Roman Abramovich is planning to go to "another level" in investing in Chelsea as the Russian billionaire attempts to turn the club's first Champions League trophy into another "three or four" triumphs, chairman Bruce Buck said yesterday.
Buck remained non-committal over the future of interim head coach Roberto di Matteo, who has been left in limbo despite his success, with the chairman claiming that Chelsea had not actively discussed who would manage the club next season "for the past six weeks".
Buck added that the Italian had done his prospects "no harm whatsoever" and there was a sense yesterday that because he has secured Champions League qualification for next season -- the target he was set in March -- Di Matteo finally had at least a chance of securing the job, albeit short-term with a one-year deal. But that still may depend on who turns the job down.
With Abramovich in London all this week, having flown back from Munich with the squad yesterday after the penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich, Chelsea are set to press ahead with making a decision on their new manager.
The owner has long harboured hopes of persuading Pep Guardiola, who has continued to state that he wants to have a year's sabbatical, to take over while Fabio Capello and, now, Guus Hiddink have both lobbied to be appointed, as has France coach Laurent Blanc.
Other candidates, such as Marseille coach Didier Deschamps have also been discussed.
Some close to Abramovich feel that the Champions League win could signal the completion of his interest in the club having already invested a £1bn over the past nine years, triggering an eventual sale, but Buck strongly suggested otherwise.
Buck said winning the trophy was what the owner had been wanting for a long time, and it was a beginning and not an end for him.
"We've seen him, year after year, invest and put his hand in his pocket and spend big money. He may go to another level now. I don't know his thought process," Buck said.
Asked whether there were still targets for the club to aim for Buck added: "Of course."
He explained that there are a lot of teams with three and four stars -- which are awarded for winning the Champions League -- but "we have one".
Although Buck said he did not think there would be "a revolution" this summer -- one had been planned when Villas-Boas was manager prior to Di Matteo -- with only a "couple of players in and a couple of players out", Chelsea have significant decisions to make on their squad.
That starts with the future of Didier Drogba, who is out of contract next month.
Although Buck said chief executive Ron Gourlay would meet the striker's representatives this week it remains highly unlikely the 34-year-old will stay.
It is understood Drogba has already agreed a deal with the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua and Chelsea would have to help him buy himself out of the agreement if he were to stay at Stamford Bridge.
"We love Didier. He's a great player, but we have to think about what's right for Didier and what's right for Chelsea," Buck said in a clear reference to the Ivorian's age and his wage demands.
Chelsea are closely monitoring the future of Atletico Madrid striker Radomel Falcao and are considering other attacking targets.
Chelsea did have a deal in place for Porto's Hulk and were pursuing Sao Paulo's Lucas Moura and Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle while there have been talks to see if they can hijack free-spending Manchester City's attempts to sign Lille's Eden Hazard and Abramovich has long tried to sign Tottenham's Luka Modric.
More ambitiously, the club have considered a move for Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain although a joint bid would appear highly unlikely.
Buck was circumspect when discussing Di Matteo, whose contract, also, expires by the end of next month although Chelsea are promising that a permanent manager will be appointed before the first-team squad fly off to the United States for a pre-season tour which begins in Seattle on July 15.
Di Matteo, who will receive a six-figure bonus for winning the competition, is attracting interest from other clubs, primarily his former team Lazio, but Buck said: "At the moment we're not thinking about where he's going.
"We're thinking about what's right for Chelsea Football Club and that's where our consideration lies."
Asked whether that sounded like Di Matteo would not remain in charge despite also winning the FA Cup, he added: "I didn't say that at all. All I'm saying is that this hasn't been a subject on our agenda for the last six weeks and now we have to sit down and make it our number one subject -- even before we start thinking about players.
"He's certainly done a lot. We've heard from a number of the players that they'd like to see him manager, but we stopped the process of considering the manager for next season before the first Barcelona match (Champions League semi-final) -- so around the beginning of April.
"That's something we have to pick up tomorrow, but there's no doubt we recognise the great contribution Robbie has made to the club, not just in bringing home two trophies but really in turning around the confidence of these players.
"He's shown the ability to put them where they should be.
"They are great technical players, we all agree that, but something was going wrong and he was able to turn it around. He deserves a lot of credit for that." (©Independent News Service)