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Roman left in the lurch

ON the Football Association's 150th birthday Pep Guardiola praised the English game and then kicked it where it hurts, rejecting Chelsea to join Bayern Munich.

Hearts were all aflutter when he declared his love for the Premier League, then broken when he pledged his future to Bavaria.

Here at the Bridge of sighs, there was no great surprise when Guardiola elected not to stand at the wrong end of Roman Abramovich's itchy trigger finger. The Chelsea crowd have become unshockable.

They have seen Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo take a Russian bullet and have given up trying to decipher what might happen next. Only in their wildest fantasies could they have entertained the hope that Guardiola would leave his apartment off Central Park to step into such volatility.

There was always a faint hope that Abramovich's money would do the trick again. It worked with Fernando Torres, right? Chelsea's owner is an oligarch who started with nothing and ended up with everything.

His money was supposed to be unstoppable. If he could splurge £50million on Torres, surely he could throw together a package to lure Guardiola to west London. The word is that he had flown to New York to make his target an offer he couldn't refuse.

But guess what? Money has found its limits. Some people cannot be bought. Other things come into play: stability, order, principles.

Guardiola was not selling himself to the highest bidder. Bayern, a haven of good sense and stability, struck him as a much better way to return to the stress of top-level management.

All the elements Guardiola eulogised in his love letter to the FA - English fans, the spirit, even the media - he then said no to.

With its hierarchy of sages and legends, Bayern are a soft landing for him after his year out. Chelsea would have been a tempest, with the inscrutable Abramovich demanding miracles.

Stamford Bridge is a place of intrigue and cabals. The pact between owner and supporters has broken down.

Guardiola might have solved that problem with his stubbly, glowing smile and his commitment to symphonic football, but the mood ahead of last night's Premier League clash with Southampton was pretty foul.

Regulars at Stamford Bridge were shocked by the derision heaped on Benitez, Bruce Buck the chairman, and chief executive Ron Gourlay during the 2-0 home League Cup defeat by Swansea.

All the constraints that govern relations between a billionaire benefactor and grateful fans have been shredded in recent weeks. Chelsea's followers no longer care who they upset because they can see the owner is indifferent to their wishes.

Over the past few months especially they have observed their own powerlessness. They adored Di Matteo but could not save him. They disdained Benitez but could not stop him being appointed manager. They feel (and sound) disenfranchised. The only contribution they feel empowered to make is to heckle and boo.

With the let-down of Guardiola's yes to Bayern Munich, of course, came an increased chance Benitez will still be here in August. An increased fear among locals.

Abramovich is stuck once more with his Rolodex of names. He has never looked so jilted. But there are spots of hope for those Chelsea fans who want the "interim" in Benitez's title adhered to. The caretaker is convinced he has a major chance of taking over from Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid when that relationship ends.

A charismatic visionary is still wanted. Jose Mourinho's aura was right for the stage Chelsea were at eight years ago. They needed to end the 50-year wait for the league title and instil a winning culture.

Since then Abramovich has followed every whim without success, hiring Luiz Felipe Scolari for entertainment and Ancelotti for Champions League know-how. Then along came a Ken Bates-era stalwart (Di Matteo) to close the deal in Europe. Then Benitez: the ex-Liverpool anti-hero.

Guardiola was going to be cerebral, cool, far-sighted, youth-friendly, iconic. Instead he administered the hardest lesson of the Abramovich era. He said no, which no one ever does.

He said no not only to the salary and the London life but also to the pay-off. Yes, every manager who parts the swing doors of Stamford Bridge has one eye on the severance package. Dismissal has become inevitable. The goodbye is inseparable from the hello.

There were some fine Chelsea players on display against Southampton: Juan Mata, Ramires, Hazard, David Luiz, Oscar and Cesar Azpilicueta are at the core of a good new Chelsea side.

To Guardiola, though, the Bayern side looked better because it offered him something Chelsea can never write into an offer. That something is control.