Chelsea will have to pay Real Madrid £15m if they want to prise Jose Mourinho away from Real Madrid at the end of the season. And their pursuit of Pep Guardiola could be beyond them at any price.
Madrid had to pay Internazionale £7m compensation when they signed Mourinho in 2010 and will demand Chelsea compensate them for the two remaining years on the Portuguese coach's contract. That would take Roman Abramovich's spending on managers to close to £90m after he pays out £9m compensation to the sacked Andre Villas-Boas.
Guardiola remains Abramovich's first choice but his Barcelona players remain convinced that he will stay at the Nou Camp for one more season, despite the fact that he is yet to sign an extension to his current deal that runs out on 30 June.
After a meeting in the club president Sandro Rosell's house last week, he is believed to be close to making a public commitment to staying one more year and midfielder Seydou Keita said at the weekend: "Pep will stay for sure because this is his home and the club is his family. Why would he want to leave?"
If he does decide to walk away he would go citing the stress and emotional exhaustion of four years at a club that demands league and Champions League success, reasons that would put him off a quick switch to Abramovich.
Guardiola has traditionally left it late to sign new contracts. He signed in January 2010 with just a few months left on the two-year deal he was awarded when he took over in 2008; and in February 2011 in the same circumstances.
The slim chances of him being open to the advances of Abramovich leave the Chelsea owner with the difficult decision between appeasing supporters who want Mourinho back or continuing his pursuit of, if not Guardiola, then at least a Guardiola-style coach.
Both the Germany manager, Joachim Löw, and France's coach, Laurent Blanc, could be available after this summer's European Championship and would fit the Guardiola template. Löw, who is rumoured to have met with Abramovich in a Geneva hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, yesterday, would also cost money. His contract runs out in 2014, but the Chelsea owner would at least feel he was buying something new and not buying back something he threw out in 2007.
Even if Abramovich comes calling, Mourinho has far from made his mind up over his next move. He knew the Andre Villas-Boas questions were waiting for him on Sunday night after his side beat Espanyol 5-0 at home and side-stepped the press conference.
He was also well aware that last week's trip to west London would only be interpreted one way with Villas-Boas on the brink and his much-stated desire to return to the Premier League possibly coming to fruition at the end of this season.
He is the master of manoeuvring himself into situations where he holds all the cards. His posturing for the Chelsea job in recent weeks helped put pressure on Villas-Boas and, ultimately, create a vacancy that he knows he could fill.
But Real Madrid could win the league at the Nou Camp at the end of April if they come out of the fixture with Barcelona with their current 10-point advantage still intact.
Achieving the Grand Slam of top European league titles would leave one record pending – becoming the first coach to win the European Cup with three different teams. That could happen too at the end of this season, but if it does not then Mourinho's next move could hinge on where he could achieve that goal. Staying for one more season at Real Madrid would give him his best shot.Reuse content