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Berlusconi says City lead Guardiola race

Silvio Berlusconi has said Manchester City are leading the race to appoint former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola as their next manager.

Berlusconi's AC Milan have also been linked with a move for Guardiola, as have Chelsea, who have appointed Rafa Benitez as manager until the end of the season following the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo.

Roberto Mancini won the Premier League title for City last season and has insisted his job is secure despite the club crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage.

However, rumours are growing that the arrival of former Barcelona duo Txiki Begiristain and Ferra Sorriano at City could see Guardiola making his way to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola is currently taking a break from football with his family in New York after leaving Barcelona at the end of last season, and Berlusconi believes City are in pole position to land him.

He said: "Who would not want someone like Guardiola? There are some English clubs after Guardiola, especially [Manchester] City who have directors that we know very well. We will try to sign him, but it's going to be difficult."

However, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will attempt to lure Guardiola to Stamford Bridge with a money no object offer of up to £100 million in the New Year, ESPN can reveal.

Abramovich plans to blow rival suitors out of the water by offering the coach a £20 million-a-year, four-year contract plus huge bonuses, although there has been speculation that Guardiola is unimpressed by the regular managerial upheaval at the London club.

Chelsea fans voiced their discontent at Di Matteo's sacking and the appointment of Bentiez as the Spaniard took charge of his first game - a 0-0 draw at home to City - on Sunday.

The club's owner has already made two previous attempts to bring Guardiola to the Bridge - once in the three weeks between the Champions League final and the agreement of a two-year deal with Di Matteo, and again in the weeks before the Italian was axed.

But Guardiola's agent, Josep Maria Orobitg, said his client would "not decide anything before January or February".

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