LONDON: Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has rubbished speculation he is considering quitting Barcelona for Chelsea.
Guardiola is said to be Blues owner Roman Abramovich’s top target to succeed Andre Villas-Boas as manager, with reports suggesting he could be offered a £10million-a-year contract.
But the 41-year-old dismissed questions about the issue ahead of tonight’s Champions League semi-final opener at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola, who has yet to confirm his extension of his rolling contract at Camp Nou, said: “It is fantasy, it’s hypothetical. I am coach of Barcelona now and they have a good manager who is getting unbelievable results. It’s not useful for Chelsea or for Barcelona to talk about that. There is no time to talk about that.
“I just want to focus on the game. This is a dream come true, to be here ahead of this great game. I just want to make sure my players are focused on the game and can enjoy playing matches like that.”
That game is Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge, the latest instalment in a Chelsea-Barca rivalry that has become a saga. The build-up has been dominated by talk of revenge, with the Blues still smarting from the sides’ last meeting in 2009. That saw Chelsea denied several penalties before Andres Iniesta’s stoppage-time away goal saw Barcelona triumph.
Guardiola said: “A long time has passed. I don’t think they are playing for revenge. What you have lost, is lost. We will both be playing to try to reach the final in Munich.”
While Barcelona have gone on to conquer the world since 2009, Chelsea have endured a turbulent three years that brought them their first ever double but more Champions League disappointment. They looked certain to suffer the same fate this season before Andre Villas-Boas’ sacking just over six weeks ago but they are a side reborn under Roberto Di Matteo.
Di Matteo has had a near-identical impact to Guus Hiddink three years ago and Guardiola said: “They have the same spirit, the same soul, the same foundation. They’ve changed the manager and a couple of players, but the same players are largely there.
“I do admire that generation of players, who have done so well over the last seven years and have got into so many semi-finals and finals.”
The latest such success, of course, was Chelsea’s crushing 5-1 victory over Tottenham in last Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
# # # #