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Champions League the Chelsea priority

Chelsea must concentrate on securing Champions League football before considering the appointment of a permanent manager, the club's chief executive, Ron Gourlay, has said.

Interim manager Rafa Benitez, who was appointed as interim manager following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo earlier in the season, confirmed after last week's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough that he would be leaving Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

Benitez said Chelsea's decision to give him the title of interim boss had been a "massive mistake" and hit out at fans who continued to protest against his appointment.

As the Blues prepare to take on Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday, Gourlay told the club's official website: "We want to be pitting ourselves against the top clubs in Europe next season."

Speaking in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur while promoting a Chelsea tour this summer, he added: "Achieving one of the Champions League qualification slots is very important to this football club.

"Our whole philosophy is based on success on the football field, and we have been doing everything in our power to ensure one of these slots.

"We said from day one that Rafa was coming in as interim manager to the end of the season.

"It is important that we remain focused on the job in hand, which is qualifying for the Champions League. Then, at the end of the season, we will sit down, have a look at the situation and we will determine how we go forward.''

He said Chelsea would spend five days in Kuala Lumpur, during which they would play against a Malaysia national select XI.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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