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The west London club are looking for a long-term replacement for former boss Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked on Sunday, but Spain's big two aren't as close as has been claimed

SPECIAL REPORT
By Martín del Palacio Langer | Goal.com Spain Chief Editor

Following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, three names have been immediately linked with the vacant managerial position at Chelsea.

Rafael Benitez, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola head the bookmakers' lists as possible replacements at Stamford Bridge, with the former Liverpool coach seen as the main candidate at this early stage.

However, following contact with a source close to the west London side, Goal.com can reveal that on this occasion, the bookmakers are heading in the wrong direction. For different reasons, none of the three coaches are currently in the running to take over from interim boss Roberto Di Matteo when the Italian's contract expires in the summer.

And even though his agent Manuel Garcia Quillon denied it yesterday, Goal.com can confirm there was a meeting between Benitez and Chelsea representatives last week. However, the reunion was brought about at the request of the Madrid-born coach, and the English club were happy to hear what he had to say, although they were clear that he was not an option for the final part of the current campaign, given that he is a high-profile manager and mainly because his teams usually start slowly, a luxury that the London side simply cannot afford mid-season with qualification for next season's Champions League still very much in grave doubt.


What is clear is that Benitez would like nothing more than to sit in the dugout at Stamford Bridge, and he will do anything he can to make a summer switch possible


Nevertheless, the ex-Valencia boss could yet be considered in the summer, although he is not the first choice of Blues owner Roman Abramovich, nor of the Russian's advisers. What is clear is that Benitez would like nothing more than to sit in the dugout at Stamford Bridge - and he will do everything he can to make a summer switch to west London possible.

With Mourinho, Chelsea's concerns are financial. The Portuguese coach usually obliges his teams to spend vast sums of money, something Abramovich is currently unwilling to do. Furthermore, the excellent relationship between the Real Madrid boss and the "heavyweights" in the Blues dressing room also count against him. The Russian magnate is privately convinced that the time for renovation has come, which is likely to mean the end for players like John Terry and Frank Lampard. Should the 'Special One' return to his former home, that is likely to be impossible, while another sticking point is thought to be the Portuguese's demand for complete autonomy in football matters, with the Russian reluctant to cede control as he did in Mourinho's first spell at the club.

MOURINHO COMES AT A PRICE  |  Jose's expensive signings

Players signed by Mourinho
Total cost of signings
Average age when bought
Trophies won

Chelsea
25 €273.685m 24.27 6 (2 Premier Leagues, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 Community Shield)

Inter
10 €110m 26 5 (2 Scudetti, 1 Coppa Italia, 1, Supercoppa Italiana, 1 Champions League)


Real Madrid

10*
€125m*
23.6*
 1*
(Copa del Rey)

* Real Madrid currently hold a 10-point lead in La Liga, while Mourinho remains under contract at the Bernabeu

With Guardiola, the consensus in London is that he will stay one more season at Barcelona, but in addition, his annual doubts over whether to stay or leave the Catalan club have also caused concern. Chelsea want a long-term project and the Blues bosses doubt the Santpedor-born coach is likely is commit to them for the long haul.

What is for certain is that the soap opera is likely to last several months before the Blues announce their next boss. Chelsea are willing to take their time and will examine several options. Fabio Capello will be interviewed, while some Premier League managers, including Everton's David Moyes, will also be considered. Interim boss Di Matteo could even earn the job on a permanent basis, but the Italian would need an oustanding few months for that to occur.

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