Guardiola v Mourinho: Abramovich identifies candidates

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Despite the Chelsea manager's job being the proverbial poisoned chalice, it is still a position that warrants the attention of the top tacticians in the game.

This time it will be no different, Roman Abramovich attempts to appoint the best man possible to restore the club to its former glories, following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas on Sunday afternoon.

Outside the unobtainable duo of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, the ideal candidates for the recently vacated role would appear to be former Blues boss Jose Mourinho and Barcelona's Pep Guardiola.

Both of these, according to The Guardian, will be sounded out by Abramovich as he begins the hunt for Villas-Boas' replacement who, after the short-term appointment of Roberto di Matteo, does not have to be in place until next season.

Mourinho, it has already been suggested, will relinquish his position with Real Madrid at the end of the season - regardless of an the outcome - having grown tired with life in Spain and the discord at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 49-year-old, unsurprisingly, wants a return to the England, where he is mere presence is still enough to warrant both front and back-page news in some national dailies.

This return of Mourinho, it would appear, could play perfectly into the hands of Abramovich, with whom he has buried the hatchet after the former's acrimonious departure from Stamford Bridge in September 2007.

However, Abramovich had tasked Villas-Boas with revitalising an ageing Chelsea squad, which was seemingly set to see the departure of the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in the summer.

But, such are the strong personal relationships Mourinho retains with his former charges, convincing the Portuguese to wield the axe may be a task too far for Abramovich.

Although Abramovich would undoubtedly welcome the return of the Special One, his preference would surely remain with Guardiola given his previous relationship with the former.

Naturally, almost every chairman and owner across the land would identify Guardiola as their No.1 candidate, but prising him away from the Nou Camp is a different matter entirely.

Lusting over Guardiola would be like doing so over the most glamourous of Hollywood movie stars - and there are some things that many simply can't buy.

But this is unlikely to stop Abramovich attempting to persuade the Barca legend to swap Catalonia for Chelsea, especially with Guardiola yet to commit to his current employers beyond the end of the season.

However, should Guardiola decide not to renew his contract with Barcelona, he is likely to withdraw himself from the public gaze to spend time with his young family, rather than thrust himself into it like never before.

Having been through the continent's best managers once already, it was inevitable that Abramovich would one day end up with Mourinho back in his sights.

Both he and Guardiola possess that highly valued commodity - being able to boast not one but two triumphs each in the Champions League.

But, just as Mourinho was when he was made Chelsea manager in 2004, Guardiola is the revered young manager with a stylish swagger and general likability.

The two managers are used to going head to head in Spain, and the Barcelona coach has, more often than not, come out on top in that battle.

The race for the Chelsea job, however, is seemingly more likely to be won by Mourinho, but perhaps more down to Guardiola having no interest in taking the role rather than Abramovich favouring the former.

And, given the perils of the managing Chelsea under the current ownership, Guardiola will be the one to record a moral victory and emerge with his dignity still very much intact.

He's becoming quite accustomed to that when it comes to facing Mourinho.

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