Roman's army split over new Blues boss

Avram Grant returns to Israel yesterday after being sacked as Chelsea boss. Frank Rijkaard, Guus Hiddink, Didier Deschamps and Mark Hughes have all been linked with the vacant position at Stamford Bridge

Matt Hughes

Chelsea have yet to decide on the man they want to succeed Avram Grant as first-team coach, with the board and the various advisers of Roman Abramovich divided over who to approach.

Peter Kenyon, the chief executive, Bruce Buck, the chairman, and Eugene Tenenbaum, Abramovich's right-hand man, met yesterday in London to discuss how to resolve a crisis of their own making, but no firm resolution as to how to proceed was agreed.

Chelsea are prepared to wait for as long as it takes to secure the right man, which may be just as well as several of the leading candidates are busy preparing for next month's European Championship finals, while the development of factions within the club's hierarchy makes a delay even more likely.

As ever at Stamford Bridge, many key personnel are pursuing their own agendas, forwarding a list of their own favoured managers to Abramovich for him to pass judgment.


Tenenbaum has told the owner that Chelsea need a strong manager to regain control of the dressing-room after certain players were allowed too much leeway under Grant, leading him to champion the cause of Guus Hiddink, the Russia coach, who, as well as having an impeccable CV, has a reputation as a disciplinarian and enjoys a good relationship with Abramovich.

Eugene Shvidler, another of Abramovich's key aides, has mentioned Dick Advocaat, Hiddink's fellow Dutchman, whose stock is high after leading Zenit St Petersburg to victory in the Uefa Cup final.

For all their talk of scouring the world, it should not be forgotten that Chelsea have tended to plump for the obvious choice in recent years, with Jose Mourinho appointed shortly after winning the Champions League for FC Porto and Grant effectively given the job as a caretaker as he was already at the club.

Kenyon is advocating a bolder choice, talking up the credentials of Mark Hughes. He has been genuinely impressed with Hughes's work at Blackburn Rovers but, as chief executive, Kenyon is also acutely aware of the need for an appointment to appease the fans.

Chelsea supporters would take to Hughes, who was popular during his three years at the club, though other executives regard him as too much of a risk.

Another more vocal clique based around Frank Arnesen, the director of youth development, and Piet de Visser, Abramovich's personal scout, are attempting to persuade the owner to go for Frank Rijkaard, a move that would please Henk ten Cate, the Chelsea assistant first-team coach, who is expected to lose his job tomorrow. Ten Cate was Rijkaard's assistant at Barcelona in 2005-06.

Didier Deschamps also threw his hat into the ring yesterday, although, despite his managerial track record with Monaco and Juventus and his pedigree as a former Chelsea player, he is very much an outsider. The French World Cup winner was interviewed as a potential replacement for Claudio Ranieri before Chelsea turned to Mourinho four years ago and is unlikely to be granted another audience.

"It would be hard to refuse Chelsea and I'm flattered to be a possibility," Deschamps said.

"They are a very big club that I know. We will see in the next few days how it goes. Three or four managers are on the list, I am part of them. We speak about [Marcello] Lippi as well, but he does not speak English. All the famous managers who are free can interest them. Abramovich and his directors will decide."

Roberto Mancini remains keen despite his agent's claims to the contrary, particularly as Mourinho is expected to be announced as his successor at Inter Milan.

"There is no truth whatsoever that there has been contact with Chelsea and there has been no contact with any team other than Inter," Maurizio De Giorgis, Mancini's representative, said. "If there is anybody that went to make noises to Chelsea, it was not authorised by Roberto Mancini." (© The Times, London)