Chelsea frustrated in sporting director search as Christoph Freund confirms FC Salzburg stay

Chelsea's pursuit of Christophe Freund as the club's new sporting director is over after the 45-year-old ruled out a move to London.

The Blues had been hopeful that Freund could be convinced to join the club but FC Salzburg stood firm over their refusal to allow him to leave and he confirmed on Tuesday his intention to stay in Germany.

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"As I have already confirmed in interviews, Chelsea FC was interested in me," Freund said.

"When such a big club asks, it not only honours me and the work of FC Red Bull Salzburg, it is of course also a circumstance that entails personal considerations. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm in the best of hands with FC Red Bull Salzburg and that a change is out of the question for me.

"We're in the middle of a very intense phase and have important tasks to do in the [Austrian] Bundesliga, Cup and Champions League -- that's what my focus and concentration are all on."

Sources had told ESPN that Salzburg were ready to offer Freund improved terms if necessary despite recently tying him to a contract until 2026.

Chelsea identified several candidates including Bayer Leverkusen's Tim Steidten and Paris Saint-Germain's Luis Campos. Sources have also told ESPN that former Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards has previously distanced himself from the role.

Chelsea were keen on Freund, who is credited as the man who helped discover Manchester City forward Erling Haaland while helping develop players including Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Dayot Upamecano.

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly stepped in as interim sporting director to help lead the club's transfer strategy after lead negotiator and director Marina Granovskaia left the club, followed by technical and performance adviser Petr Cech.

ESPN reported on Sept. 8 that Chelsea are aiming to appoint a sporting director before the World Cup begins in November and that new manager Graham Potter would have a say in the process.

Sources have suggested that Potter was keen on working with Freund, while Boehly and co-owner Behdad Eghbali saw him as a logical fit for the multi-club ownership model they are attempting to implement.

Red Bull already own clubs in Salszburg and Leipzig as well as New York among others. Sources have told ESPN that Chelsea are aiming to make more than one appointment to add football expertise to their internal structure to support whoever is named sporting director.