Chelsea are to open talks today with the Turkish Football Federation about releasing manager Guus Hiddink from his contract but are understood to be unwilling to meet the £4m compensation the Turks are demanding.
Hiddink, 64, has a year left to run on his £4m-a-year job in Istanbul but is prepared to answer Chelsea's call and take over the manager's job vacated by the sacking of Double-winning Carlo Ancelotti less than an hour after the club's final game of the season at Everton.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is keen to bring Hiddink back to the club he led to the FA Cup when he took temporary charge for three months in 2009 following the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
However, it is a point of principle with Hiddink that he does not break a contract, and he is insisting he will not walk out on Turkey. Instead he wants Chelsea to agree a compensation package with the national federation so he can depart on good terms. The Turks are understood to want £4m to release Hiddink and Chelsea are claiming the sum is too high. However, it is only the start of a negotiation process that is likely to end with Hiddink departing.
Abramovich is understood to favour Hiddink taking over as manager, with full responsibility for team affairs, as he did two years ago. Since then Hiddink has worked as an informal adviser to Abramovich on an ad-hoc basis. The Chelsea owner also paid the bulk of Hiddink's salary as the Russia coach from 2006 to 2010.
The Dutchman, who has also managed Real Madrid and the Dutch and South Korean national teams, is open to the possibility, possibly only for a year before moving upstairs to become director of football. Last week he made it clear he favours a return to the day-to-day involvement of club football, saying: "I feel energetic and I like working every day."
Some in the Netherlands, however, doubt he would be willing to commit 100 per cent to Chelsea, as he enjoys living in an apartment in Amsterdam and loves to play golf, and would prefer to come to London as director of football.
Chelsea have also discussed the merits of Mark Hughes, who last week invoked a clause in his contract with Fulham allowing him to walk away midway through the two-year deal. Hughes, however, will only be considered as a candidate to be the next manager at Chelsea, where he played for three years from 1995 to 1998, should the deal for Hiddink fall through.
Chelsea are keen for the new manager to be in place by mid-June, giving him a couple of weeks to acclimatise before the first team return to training on 4 July. The club play three friendlies in Europe before heading off to Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong on a pre-season tour later in July.
Chelsea are eager to sign several new players this summer. Their main transfer targets include the Brazilian striker Neymar, 19, from Santos; Racing Genk's 19-year-old Belgian left winger Kevin de Bruyne; the highly-rated 18-year-old Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku at Anderlecht; and the Netherlands right-back Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax, who is 23.
Their former sporting director Frank Arnesen has meanwhile been raiding the club's reserve side, in his new role as director of football at Hamburg. The Turkish teenager Gokhan Tore, who was born in Germany, is set to sign a three-year contract for the club today, for a fee of around £1m.
It follows Arnesen's moves last week to sign the England Under-21 defender Michael Mancienne and the Italy Under-19 midfielder Jacopo Sala from Chelsea. Hamburg are also keen on a fourth Chelsea player, the Dutch defender Jeffrey Bruma.