Ranieri's agent admits Monaco tie is the key

Claudio Ranieri's future will be decided after Chelsea's Champions' League semi-final against Monaco, although the Italian has made it clear that he does not want to become the club's director of football as has been suggested.

In a meeting yesterday Ranieri discussed Chelsea's plans with chief executive Peter Kenyon although the head coach's own future was not specifically on the agenda. However, he has told Kenyon that although he is willing to take a wider role, including involvement in the youth academy and a new training ground, he will not tolerate another coach coming in to oversee the first-team.

Both Chelsea officials and Ranieri's agents sought to play down the significance of yesterday's meeting: "It was routine," said Phil Smith who, with his brother Jon, runs First Artist Corporation which represents Ranieri. However, Smith added that one purpose was to see whether the coach and Kenyon "shared a vision of the way forward". In other words, could they work together given Kenyon has already offered the job to someone behind Ranieri's back. Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, was offered the job by Kenyon but decided to stay on in his role with the Football Association and signed a new contract that runs to 2008.

Ranieri's camp are keen that a resolution is sought sooner rather than later although they insist there is no deadline. Ranieri has a contract until 2007 but will want an improvement - and reassurances - if he stays.

"Had they been sixth or seventh in the League and out of Europe it might have been different," said Smith in reference to Ranieri's achievement in getting Chelsea into the last four of the Champions' League and his chances of staying. "We have been trying to push it so that it [the decision on his future] does not go beyond [the summer]. But it's not going to be resolved overnight." Smith added: "There will be another meeting after the Monaco game. It may well depend on how that goes as to what happens then."

If Chelsea are defeated, therefore, the chances of Ranieri remaining would appear to diminish. And although the 52-year-old Italian did not want his future to come down to one result it appears it may just have to. Such a scenario adds to the pressure ahead of next week's game, and the return leg two weeks later, although Kenyon and the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich took a dim view of the club's disappointing form over Easter and the possibility that they will surrender second place in the Premiership. But given the scale of what Ranieri would be entitled as a pay-off - around £6m - it's not quite Monte Carlo or bust.

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