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Manager search nearing conclusion say Chelsea


Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay is hopeful the club's search for a new manager is coming to an end but refused to be drawn on whether Guus Hiddink will return to Stamford Bridge.

Following Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal at the end of last season, Turkey coach Hiddink has been heavily linked with a role he occupied on a caretaker basis in 2009.

The 64-year-old Dutchman led Chelsea to FA Cup success and the semi-finals of the Champions League during his brief tenure two years ago and remains close to owner Roman Abramovich.

Gourlay gave little away regarding any potential appointment but feels an announcement could be made within the next fortnight as the club look to fill the post before they leave for next month's pre-season tour of Asia.

"It's a big season for us coming up. Things didn't go as well as we hoped last season and plans are very much in place for next season to be back winning trophies," said Gourlay, in Hong Kong to help promote Chelsea's "Here to Play, Here to Stay" initiative that aims to develop grassroots football in the region.

"As far as the manager is concerned, the process is going well but now is not the time for me to comment on who the next manager is going to be. We will announce things in the usual way but hopefully in the next week or two, we'll be in a position to announce who our new coach will be.

"I don't think it's right to comment at this stage. I don't want to create any speculation, we'll make an announcement when we're ready and we'll see the new coach when we arrive next month."

With Chelsea ending last term empty-handed, it is anticipated the new incumbent will have substantial funds at his disposal to freshen up an ageing squad.

Gourlay, though, believes there is unlikely to be a mass influx of new faces.

"As far as players are concerned, the basis of the team will be the same for next season," he added.

"There may be an introduction of two or three players. We've identified key players that we'd like to bring to the team, players who can strengthen the team but of course we'll probably have to wait until the new coach is in place."

Hiddink may have moved a step closer to becoming Chelsea manager today after the president of the Turkish Football Federation announced he would not stand for re-election.

Mahmut Ozgener's decision to stand down will likely have an impact on the Blues' hopes of securing Hiddink's services in the near future.

Ozgener, who reportedly lacked enough support to secure another term in office, has been a staunch ally of national team boss Hiddink, whose refusal to fully commit his future to Turkey has caused concern at the TFF.

Even Ozgener himself suggested last week he had been misled by the Dutchman, threatening to report Chelsea to FIFA if they persuaded Hiddink to break his contract.

Feelings are likely to run deeper than that among Ozgener's opponents and any new president may decide to cut his losses on Hiddink, whose reported £4million-a-year contract expires next summer.

There are claims he is paid even more than this and that the TFF are holding out for the maximum possible compensation from Chelsea.