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Rafa the gaffer: Chelsea close in on Benitez as search for new boss approaches conclusion

Rafa the gaffer: Chelsea close in on Benitez as search for new boss approaches conclusion
Chelsea are in talks with Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez, with the Stamford Bridge club keen to tie up the Spanish manager's appointment to replace Maurizio Sarri, according to reports.

Benitez is still under contract with Newcastle, but that deal expires at the end of June, and Chelsea are looking to secure his signature and prevent losing him to other suitors.

Newcastle are in the middle of a takeover bid, with Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan offering around $445 million to purchase the club from controversial current owner Mike Ashley.

But Benitez could well end up departing St. James's Park, with the incoming owners reportedly assessing the viability of approaching other targets, including former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

Current Chelsea manager Sarri led the club to the UEFA Europa League last season, but looks set to return to Serie A to hook up with Scudetto champions Juventus.

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However, it is understood that Chelsea want to lock in their new manager before releasing Sarri to Juve.

Italian outlet Tuttosport says Benitez is set for an "imminent" meeting with Chelsea's top brass to tie up any loose ends and finalize a deal to bring the Spanish boss to Stamford Bridge.

Benitez previously spent five months as interim boss at the London club after stepping in for Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012.

During his short spell, he helped guide the Blues to a third place finish in the Premier League and led them to victory in the UEFA Europa League.