Van Basten to fill Jose shoes?
Chelsea have been forced to deny reports that they have offered Marco Van Basten the chance to become the long-term successor to Jose Mourinho.
Director of Football Avram Grant was put in charge of the first team last week after Mourinho's shock's departure.
But the club have refused to clarify the terms on which the Israeli has stepped into the manager's chair, fuelling speculation that he is only a stop-gap appointment until Roman Abramovich can find a big-name replacement for Mourinho.
A report in Wednesday's edition of The Sun claimed that Chelsea's Russian owner had already offered the job to Van Basten, who sat behind Abramovich in the VIP seats as Chelsea were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The paper claimed contact between the two had been established through Frank Arnesen, the Dutch head of Chelsea's youth and scouting operation, and cited former Juventus, AC Milan and Real Madrid boss Fabio Capello as their source.
Capello, himself seen as another potential replacement for Mourinho, reportedly said: "Arnesen wants Van Basten to take over and has already recommended Marco to Abramovich.
"Frank and Marco know each other well from their time in Dutch football."
Chelsea however denied that anyone other than Grant had been offered the manager's job.
"No one at Chelsea FC has been authorised to speak to any individual about the post, either by the board or the owner," the club said in a statement.
Chelsea's protestations are unlikely to stem speculation about Van Basten, partly because, on paper, he would be an ideal appointment.
His status as one of the world's greatest players would appease fans angered by Mourinho's exit while his record as the Dutch national coach suggests he could deliver the entertaining, attacking football that Abramovich is said to crave.
Van Basten is bound to be tempted by the offer but there must be a doubt as to whether he would be willing to quit his country just as they are coming to the end of their qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.
The reports linking Chelsea with Van Basten can however only serve to further undermine the position of Grant, whose cause has not been helped by Sunday's defeat and rumours that some of the club's biggest names want to follow Mourinho out of Stamford Bridge.
Grant's appointment was made so hastily last week that the 52-year-old has not even had time to replace the backroom staff who left with Mourinho, a task he hopes to have completed inside three weeks.
"We are looking in England and abroad," he revealed ahead of Wednesday's League Cup trip to Hull City.
"We need a fitness and a goalkeeping coach. We are using people from the academy at the moment and they are doing a very good job."
Grant also insisted that he had the backing of the Chelsea dressing room.
"They speak with me very well," he said. "The injured players are trying to get back sooner than expected. If I can judge through their actions, then everything is okay."
Grant added: "Coaches come and go. Not all of them stay like Sir Alex Ferguson. I respect Jose very much. But I don't have any doubt about their loyalty to the club."
Despite insisting that he had enjoyed a good relationship with Mourinho, Grant could not resist a veiled swipe at his predecessor by claiming he had inherited a team with problems.
"This season we didn't play so well except one game that was fantastic against Birmingham and twenty minutes against Reading," Grant said.
"We didn't play well, we didn't score enough goals. We need many things to improve and in a short time."