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found this in this mornings times. angel fernández said that we are speaking to ranieri, irureta and bianchi. we have spoken to capello but could not meet his demands... heres the full article:



BARCELONA have approached Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri to be their next manager. Ranieri, whose career in La Liga in the late 1990s earned him a high reputation in Europe, is in talks with the Spanish superclub about taking over at the end of the season.

The Italian, who has been offered a two-year extension to his contract at Stamford Bridge, has emerged as the favourite among an influential group of Barça directors to lead an overhaul of the club after three years of underachievement. Negotiations could advance as early as Wednesday, after Barça have completed their European Cup quarter-final against Panathinaikos — they are 1-0 down from the first leg.

Barcelona, currently led by the beleaguered Carles Rexach, have all but given up hope of the Spanish league title and are in a fierce battle to finish in the qualifying positions for next season’s Champions League.

Angel Fernández, the club vice-president, confirmed that discussions had been held with the Chelsea manager and two other candidates. “We have spoken to Claudio Ranieri, Javier Irureta ña and Carlos Bianchi Juniors,” he said. “There was also contact with Fabio Capello, but we could not accept some of his demands.”

Capello had been the favoured candidate of club president Joan Gaspart until the Roma coach extended his contract with the Italian champions last week. His decision, on the back of Barça’s fragile league and European form, opened the door for Ranieri, whose Italian representative, Vinicio Fioran-elli, is understood to have met Barcelona’s sports director, Anton Parera, in the Catalan capital last Wednesday.

Ranieri, 50, is now regarded as the front-runner to replace Rexach, Barça’s third head coach in three years. Irureta, mastermind of Deportivo’s Spanish title two seasons ago and their Champions League runs, has answered Barcelona’s overtures by telling them Deportivo have first option on him and Barça doubt he will go to the Nou Camp. Bianchi has a pre-contract agreement with Barça, but they have not exercised it since the Argentine left Boca Juniors in December. Bianchi is seen as a risk because of his relative inexperience in Europe.

Ranieri’s CV appeals to Barcelona largely because of what he achieved with Valencia between 1997 and 1999. He won the Spanish Cup and propelled Valencia into the Champions League, laying the foundations of the side that would later reach successive European Cup finals. Ranieri then moved to Atletico Madrid, who were relegated after he resigned, although concensus puts the responsibility for that on the notorious Atletico president Jesus Gil.

Ranieri joined Chelsea in September 2000, was a relative unknown in England but had a good record across Europe’s strongest leagues. As a young manager he took Cagliari from Italy’s Serie C to Serie A, coached Napoli for two seasons and guided Fiorentina to promotion and an Italian Cup.

Ranieri, whose imperfect English made him a remote figure during his first season at Chelsea, speaks and writes excellent Spanish. La Liga warmed to his charisma, and he is still popular in Valencia, where he contributes columns to a local newspaper. At Barcelona, the board includes directors committed to employing a “flair” coach, and Ranieri’s Valencia were not always an advertisement for that. But his backers will promote his case on the back of his work with Chelsea, and his strength of character in a sometimes wilful dressing room. Barça still call themselves the biggest club in the world, and are certainly among the richest and grandest. Money is available to reward the new manager and buy new players for a squad that already includes Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola.

“Things are not going great in terms of our football at this moment,” said Fernández, “but we will finish this season and then the directors will take over from May and make the signings. Carles Rexach will finish this season. But, yes, we have talked to Capello and will not be taking him on, and we are talking to Ranieri.”
 
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