LIPPI FITS BLUES BILL, SAYS VIALLI

Ex-Chelsea boss believes Italian World Cup-winner has credentials to rival favourites Guus Hiddink and Marco van Basten for west London role

EXCLUSIVE

FRANK DALLERES

FORMER Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli believes World Cup-winning ex- Italy coach Marcello Lippi is a credible rival to bookmakers’ favourites Guus Hiddink and Marco van Basten for the Stamford Bridge hot-seat.

Dutch pair Hiddink and Van Basten are being tipped as the most likely men – perhaps even working in tandem – to replace Carlo Ancelotti, who was sacked on Sunday shortly after the final match of a disappointing campaign.

Vialli, who won four trophies in two years as Blues boss before his dismissal in September 2000, rates both Van Basten, a personal friend of his, and Hiddink, who is currently coaching Turkey, extremely highly.

However he is also a huge admirer of Lippi, who boasts one of the most impressive pedigrees in world football but has been out of work since leaving the Italy job last year and has scarcely been mentioned in relation to Chelsea.

“I think there are a number of managers out there capable of taking them to the next level or winning the things the club wants to win,” Vialli (right) told City A.M.

“Normally there are two options. You either go for someone with a proven track record, and Guus Hiddink, Marcello Lippi and other managers, like Ancelotti before, have that.

“Or you do what Barcelona did with Pep Guardiola three years ago: they took a gamble and took someone who was basically unknown as a manager – and the rest is history.

“Lippi has the experience. He has won the Champions League before, he has got to the final three times, managed the national team and won the World Cup. If you look at his CV it’s difficult to argue that he might not be one of the best candidates.”

Ancelotti’s sacking has earned the Italian a measure of sympathy, coming as it did just 12 months after he led the club to the Premier League and FA Cup Double.

Vialli has nothing but praise for the former AC Milan coach, whom he played alongside for Italy, and expects him to bounce back quickly.

But he also believes the apparent ruthlessness of Blues owner Roman Abramovich would not have come as a surprise to Ancelotti, who would have known that anything other than success would not be tolerated.

“First of all Ancelotti is a very special manager and a very special human being, and I am sure he will find great places where he will manage successfully in the future,” Vialli added.

“At certain clubs you really need to do something special to keep your place, otherwise there are a number of managers who are available. So having a normal season sometimes is not enough to keep your job – but managers know that.”

One intriguing possibility raised in recent weeks is that Hiddink, 64, could occupy a director of football role at Chelsea with Van Basten, 46, as head coach.

It would be considered a risk to adopt a Continental management model that has had mixed results in England, but Vialli believes that, when implemented correctly, it is the best one.

“On the one hand it’s nice to have a manager who is in control of everything – he can choose the players, the tactics – but I think it becomes a bit too much,” he said.

“I like to think if you had a combination of someone selling and signing the players so the manager can concentrate on coaching the team, I think that is probably the best possible combination.”

Vialli, 46, now works as a pundit on Italian television and has devoted a significant amount of the last three years helping to devise Lords of Football, a forthcoming video game that promises to immerse players even deeper into the world of management.

He himself has taken a break from the real thing since leaving Watford in 2002, but has not ruled out a comeback. “I wouldn’t say I’m on standby, but I’m a football guy so if in the future something came up I would consider it,” he adds. “But I’m perfectly happy at where I am right now in my life.”

Hiddink open to a return to club management but there will be no homecoming for Mourinho

FOOTBALL

JAMES GOLDMAN

CHELSEA have been given hope of luring Guus Hiddink back to Stamford Bridge on a full-time basis after the Dutchman’s agent suggested the 64-year-old wouldn’t be averse to returning to club management.

Hiddink, who has one year remaining on his contract with the Turkish Football Association, enjoyed a successful three-month spell in west London two years ago, securing an FA Cup win, second place in the Premier League and would have reached the Champions League final at Barcelona’s expense were it not for several highly contentious refereeing decisions.

He hasn’t managed a club on a permanent basis since 2006 leading to suggestions he could only be tempted by a return to Chelsea in a Director of Football capacity, but there appears to have been a softening of that stance.

“I don’t know that you can say that [he would not consider a club job],” said his agent, Cees van Nieuwenhuizen. “He is focusing on his job and he likes what he is doing. As long as he is in the race for the European Championship with Turkey, he would continue to focus on that. Once that is finished he will start thinking about his future.”

Defeat to Belgium next week would leave Turkey with only a remote shot at qualification for Euro 2012 at which point Hiddink might find it easier to renege on his contractual obligations.

“At this stage, we will leave everything to Mr Hiddink and if he sees the need to speak about this issue, he will do this personally,” said Turkey’s senior national team communications manager Turker Tozar. “We have a press conference on 27 May. If he wishes comment on these rumours or leaks, he will do it.”

Pressed on whether they would refuse any approach for Hiddink from Chelsea, Tozar added: “Last month, our vice-president was asked and he said we had long-term plans with Mr Hiddink. If there are new issues, Hiddink will talk about this.”

Van Nieuwenhuizen, meanwhile, insisted he knew nothing of reports Hiddink had recommended Marco van Basten to Roman Abramovich as an alternative to himself, but confirmed the two Dutchmen were in touch.

“They meet each other every now and then,” he said, while Van Basten’s representative, Perry van Overeem, claimed there had been no contact between the former AC Milan striker and Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho, the most successful manager in the club’s history, last night ruled himself out of a return to Stamford Bridge by pledging his immediate future to Real Madrid.

The Portuguese won back-to-back Premier League titles in his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge before his relationship with Abramovich deteriorated beyond repair, culminating in his sudden and surprise sacking.

Mourinho has repeatedly aired his desire to return to the Premier League at some stage in his career, but for now, at least, he appears content in the Spanish capital despite a tumultuous first season at the Bernabeu.

“We will return on 11 July with the same passion and with the same motivation as always to continue trying to dignify the prestige and the incomparable history of Real Madrid,” he said.

Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, an outside candidate to replace Carlo Ancelotti also claimed last night he would be unwilling to cross the London divide.

He said: “Well I have got a great job at Tottenham, things are going well for me. I have had a couple of great years it couldn’t have gone better for me there. There’s been no contact.”