Pep Guardiola in Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's sights

02 December 2010 12:18
Barcelona's 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid will not have passed Roman Abramovich by, nor the fact that Pep Guardiola, at one point, had nine academy graduates on the pitch. He will have been watching.

Barca's La Masia production line is what every club craves but when Abramovich craves something, he usually tries harder than most to acquire it.

So, when the dust settles on the Catalan party, they may find the envious gaze of Chelsea's wealthy owner fixed upon them more firmly than ever.

Man of the moment: Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who masterminded the Catalan club's 5-0 win over Real Madrid on Monday, has admirers at Chelsea

Guardiola and Abramovich have met in the past, a chance meeting, some time ago, but the Russian is understood to have been impressed by his intelligence, humility and charisma.

He is an admirer of his work on the pitch too. Who isn't? Guardiola's agent claims six clubs have been in touch as football's grapevine twitches with whispers that his client is seeking a new challenge.

Guardiola is not getting on well with Sandro Rosell, who is proving to be every inch the interfering new president the coach feared he would when refusing to extend his own contract by more than 12 months at the end of last season.

At the same time, the Barca coach has let his fondness for English football be known and, like several high-profile personalities has been watching Manchester United for signs that Sir Alex Ferguson might soon retire.

Chelsea were quick to shoot down the idea that they had made contact, although it is worth noting that Abramovich started to court Carlo Ancelotti more than a year before he arrived at Stamford Bridge.

What is not disputed is that there has been contact and official meetings with Barcelona's former sporting director Txiki Begiristain, who would join at less than half Frank Arnesen's £2m-a-year salary, but the detail of the job description is a potential stumbling block.

Snow joke: Carlo Ancelotti finds himself under increasing pressure at Chelsea

Begiristain will want major control over player recruitment at the first-team level as he enjoyed in seven years at Barca but Abramovich has an unconventional backroom structure, with elusive advisors and arms of influence, which drove Jose Mourinho to despair.

When Arnesen first arrived at Chelsea, he had responsibility for transfers and scouting but Mourinho introduced him to a crowded players' canteen by saying they would never see him again because he had nothing to do with the first team.

In charge: Blues owner Roman Abramovich demands success

The Dane's role evolved to become focused on the youth ranks and rejected the chance to stay at Chelsea in a different role, at a fraction of his £2m salary, before confirming his intention to resign.

Despite a sugary tribute on the club's website, those close to Abramovich insist he is not disappointed with Arnsen's exit, feeling the time is right to change the approach adopted since his arrival from Spurs, five-and-a-half years ago.

Millions have been spent on young players from around the world with very little return, while Abramovich sees Javier Hernandez, who joined Manchester United for £7m, as an example of the sort of business he wants to do.

Of those Academy products currently on the fringes, Josh McEachran looks the best prospect and he was at Chelsea long before Arnesen.

Great hope was invested in Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma but Ancelotti did not trust 18-year-old defender Bruma when there were injuries to Alex and John Terry.

While Kakuta is out of contract in the summer and, although talks have reopened in recent weeks, Chelsea are reluctant to pay more than £20,000-a-week for a 19-year-old who cost them nearly £3m and is yet to fulfil his potential.

He could sign for a foreign club next month and leave for a nominal fee in the summer, as could striker Fabio Borini, who is rated by Ancelotti but the manager has been told to freeze him out during a contract stand-off which began last summer.

Borini, 19, had surgery on a nagging shoulder injury on Wednesday which will keep him out for two months, by which time, he could have agreed a move, with Lazio, Parma and Juventus keen.

Ancelotti is clearly unimpressed with certain restraints, starting with the players he wanted to keep who left, like Michael Ballack. And the players he wanted but never got, like Fernando Torres. To the players bought without his say-so, like Ramires and Yossi Benayoun.

Teenage kicks: Abramovich wants to see a return for his investment in Chelsea's youth system with young stars like Josh McEachran breaking through

What has been noted is that, even someone accustomed to the excessive meddling of president Silvio Berlusconi at Milan felt moved to make clear his unhappiness at the sacking of Ray Wilkins and the appointment of the owner's friend Michael Emenalo as his assistant.

If Guardiola is so irritated by the interfering Rosell to the point where he will consider turning his back on the beauty of this Barcelona team, then why rush to swap it for Chelsea? As opposed to, say, Manchester United, where the manager rules.

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Source: Daily_Mail