Bates comes out to bat for Ranieri

The former Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates, believes the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, has made the manager, Claudio Ranieri, suffer "the death of a thousand cuts" by not admitting whether he faces the sack this summer.

The former Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates, believes the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, has made the manager, Claudio Ranieri, suffer "the death of a thousand cuts" by not admitting whether he faces the sack this summer.

Bates, whose controlling stake in the London club was bought by Abramovich last July, had a ruthless reputation where his managers were concerned - sacking Gianluca Vialli in September 2000 despite the Italian winning the FA Cup four months earlier.

However, Bates - now looking to invest in Sheffield Wednesday - insists he never left the axe hanging in the way Abramovich apparently has. "I've sacked a few managers in my time but I've done it 'bang-out'. I haven't done the death of a thousand cuts - if you want to change your manager, you change your manager. There's a way to do it and a way not to do it," he said.

"Claudio Ranieri is a proud man and I think he's done a great job. He might have done even better if I'd have been in charge because he wouldn't have been under the kind of disloyal pressure he's had to put up with over the past nine months."

Bates believes Chelsea has become a playground for "mercenary" players aware of the near-limitless depth of Abramovich's pockets. He pointed to how few of the signings made since the Russian's buy-out feature regularly in the first team, with only three of the starting XI in the Champions' League semi-final second leg against Monaco arriving post-Abramovich.

"The danger at Chelsea is that no one worthwhile will come here, they will only come for the money not for the affection," Bates said. "Some of the players they've signed this season are only highly-paid mercenaries, they don't give a damn about Chelsea. They give a damn about their wage packets and it's interesting that not many of the players that have been signed [post-Abramovich] have made it into the team successfully."

The club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, branded the season a "failure" on Tuesday night at a Supporters' Night Out dinner. However, he added: "There has been no decision taken on Claudio Ranieri and no new manager appointed.

"We conduct our discussions privately with Claudio and are not about to change that. If you do not believe me that's unfortunate. The decision will be taken over the next few weeks."

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