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Clarke escapes cull


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Clarke escapes cull as Chelsea step up search


Sunday June 8 2008

Steve Clarke has been asked to stay on at Chelsea as the club prepare the ground for the appointment of a new manager. Clarke was instrumental in bringing the west London side to the verge of a Premier League and Champions League double during a troubled season marked by player discontent with manager Avram Grant and his Dutch assistant Henk ten Cate.

While Grant and Ten Cate were dismissed in the wake of Chelsea's Champions League final defeat to Manchester United last month, the quality of the Scotsman's work and the respect in which he is held by the playing staff has been recognised by the club's hierarchy.

Clarke's retention is a signal that Chelsea are seeking to replace Grant with a manager who comes unaccompanied by an extensive support team. Clarke is expected to continue his role as senior first-team coach with potential promotions from within the current staff, including reserve manager Brendan Rogers.

As evidenced by his shift from consulting Carlo Ancelotti on the credentials of other Italian candidates to a direct offer of the job, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will be the ultimate arbiter of the appointment. Abramovich plans to attend several Euro 2008 fixtures, but has positioned himself to meet potential appointees during the tournament.

There remains a feeling within some quarters of Stamford Bridge that Guus Hiddink could still be persuaded to replace Grant, particularly if Russia's Euro 2008 campaign is deemed unsuccessful by Hiddink's present employers and his contract is not renewed. The Dutchman has regularly changed his assistants when switching club or national team.

Luiz Felipe Scolari has also been sounded out. It is believed he will seriously consider an offer once Portugal's interest in the tournament is concluded. Jorge Mendes, who negotiated the terms of José Mourinho's exit from Chelsea in September, holds a mandate to represent Scolari in England.

Two names who might have been in the frame, Frank Rijkaard and Roberto Mancini, are unemployed and have recent experience of managing major Champions League sides, but they endured troubled times at Barcelona and Internazionale respectively.

Chelsea would prefer to secure their new man before the end of the month, with the future of several key players still undetermined.

Ricardo Carvalho expressed his uncertainty about remaining at Stamford Bridge ahead of the Champions League final. The Portugal international is unhappy that his wages are less than two-thirds of John Terry's £131,000 a week and would push for a move to Spain or Italy if the club decline to improve them. 'There is always the possibility of leaving,' said Carvalho, 'but that depends on the club.'

Frank Lampard, meanwhile, has entered the final year of his contract and will find a ready home at Mourinho's Inter. The England midfielder has not received an offer of a new deal since rejecting an approach by the club to match Terry's contract in the aftermath of Mourinho's sacking, the timing of which he considered disrespectful. Lampard has, however, declined the opportunity to 'buy out' the final season of his contract.

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