Chelsea 'made no approach' for Van Basten

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The Independent Online

Chelsea have denied asking the Netherlands coach, Marco van Basten, to take over from Avram Grant as manager.

According to reports yesterday, the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, offered Van Basten the job following the recommendation of Frank Arnesen, the club's director of youth policy.

"Chelsea Football Club totally refutes that the job of manager or first-team coach has been offered to any individual other than Avram Grant," the club said in a statement. "Chelsea is considering its position regarding further action in light of these reports."

Van Basten, who sat behind Abramovich at Old Trafford on Sunday when Chelsea lost 2-0 to Manchester United, played for Ajax and Milan, where he won the European Cup twice, and scored 24 goals in 58 appearances for the Netherlands.

The 1992 world player of the year, he coached Ajax's reserve side before becoming coach of the Dutch national team in July 2004.

Romania lead the Netherlands on goal difference at the top of their qualifying group for next year's European Championship finals.

When asked whether Chelsea had been in contact regarding Van Basten, the Dutch Football Association spokesperson Anja van Ginhoven said: "No. Van Basten will talk to the Dutch FA at the end of the year about a new contract or leaving after Euro 2008.

"It is absolute speculation that resulted from the fact Van Basten was in Manchester last weekend for an appointment with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. He sat in the stand quite close to Mr Abramovich – that was just a coincidence.

"Both our chief executive and Van Basten said they will not talk about contracts now. We will start talking about it at the end of the Euro 2008 qualification campaign."

The Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack, meanwhile, has revealed that he hopes to be back in full training within weeks. Ballack, who turned 31 yesterday, has been struggling to regain full fitness after undergoing two operations on his damaged ankle.

But Ballack said: "It's getting better, I keep going with my rehab programme and I am quite happy now with the way we work. I work very hard and I hope that I can come back soon".

The Germany captain has been running in a sandpit to try to speed up his recovery but admits it is tough going. He added: "It is very hard for the condition but it is good for the foot so it is part of my programme now.

"It is much better; I had to wait a long time to be at this level now, so I am happy. I hope in a few weeks I will be back on the pitch, I can train with the team and also be playing."

The West London club have taken further action on ticket prices in the wake of the disappointing attendance in the Champions League game against Rosenborg last week. Only 24,973 turned up at Stamford Bridge, despite prices begin reduced from £45 to £36.

Chelsea have now put tickets on sale for the other home group games against Schalke and Valencia at £25 for adults and £12 concessions. A club statement said: "This is in line with this season's new policy of price reductions for Champions League games. These prices are the same as the prices for FA Cup matches at Stamford Bridge."

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