Monday 23 October 2017

Hiddink to see off late scare

Jason Burt

Chelsea are hoping to confirm Guus Hiddink as their new manager within the next 48 hours -- but he's facing late competition from the highly rated young Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas.

Sources close to Chelsea claim that owner Roman Abramovich has made his final decision as to who will succeed Carlo Ancelotti, who was harshly sacked within two hours of Chelsea's final Premier League game last month.

Abramovich was presented with a six-strong shortlist by the club's board three weeks ago and has not, it's understood, deviated from his initial reaction to go for Hiddink.

The Dutchman is regarded as the firm favourite by the same sources because he is the outstanding available candidate, with Turkey prepared to release him from the final year of his contract as their national team coach, in return for £4m in compensation.

Intriguingly, however, Porto's president Pinta da Costa was in London on Wednesday evening -- Abramovich was also in town -- raising the outside prospect that Chelsea might trigger a deal for Villas-Boas, although they would have to pay €15m to activate a release clause.

Jose Mourinho, who is Villas-Boas' former mentor, also has a release clause of €25m from his contract at Real Madrid and Abramovich has actively considered paying that also.

However, it's expected he will now appoint Hiddink on a 12-month contract, with the option for a further year, and radically overhaul the Chelsea squad.

A bid of £22m has been submitted for Tottenham's Luka Modric, which has been dismissed out-of-hand. However Chelsea are expected to return with an increased offer and, crucially, it's understood that the 25-year-old Croatian is keen to push through the move.

Manchester City reacted to the news that Chelsea had bid for Modric by making their own inquiry for the midfielder yesterday, but it's understood that he would prefer to stay in London and is also likely to spurn interest from Manchester United should they bid.

Yesterday, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp responded to Chelsea's bid by saying: "Luka is not for sale. But if there has been a bid of £22m, that is ridiculous. There are people being sold for £20m who are not fit to lace Luka's boots."

That was in a pointed reference to Jordan Henderson's transfer from Sunderland to Liverpool -- although the fee is actually £16m -- but Tottenham are annoyed that Chelsea have tried to unsettle their player with such a low offer, especially as the Blues agreed to pay £50m for Fernando Torres.

Modric arrived at White Hart Lane, prior to Euro 2008, in a deal worth more than £16m so Spurs would expect to double their money for a player who has thrived in the Premier League and who also has three years left on his contract.

Abramovich is desperate to add more creativity to his team and it is understood that Chelsea have also not ruled out a bid for City striker Carlos Tevez, having given up on persuading Udinese's Alexis Sanchez to join them rather than Barcelona, United or City.

Chelsea remain hopeful that they might beat Real Madrid to secure the exciting Brazilian striker Neymar, although that deal may have to wait until the end of the summer window or, indeed, until January.

For now Modric is the priority and it appears likely he will be signed.

The club will have a manager in place before the players return for pre-season training on July 4 and Hiddink, who is currently in South Korea working for his charitable foundation, is desperate to take over.

Chelsea have so far balked at the €4m in compensation being sought by the Turkish FA for Hiddink's release but, ultimately, Abramovich will pay the money if it makes the difference between getting his man or not.

However, there has been some discussion within his inner circle as to whether Hiddink, given his age (he is 64) and his previous spell at Chelsea is the right character to make some of the radical changes that Abramovich envisages. He may not want to make some of the ruthless decisions required.

Villas-Boas is much more in that mould and Chelsea could turn to him next year, when the buy-out clause in his contract will have expired, and then move Hiddink into a director of football role.

But for now, Abramovich is concentrating the club's efforts on hiring the right manager and reshaping the squad, with the likes of Anderlecht's Romelu Lukaku and fellow teenager, Genk winger Kevin de Bruyne also set to sign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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