BERLIN Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich declined to comment on speculation about a possible deal with successful former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who has confirmed he will return to football after a year off.
"Unfortunately we will not be commenting on these rumours," a club official told Reuters when asked about reports that the Spanish coach, who has taken a sabbatical after a trophy-rich stint at Barca, was close to a deal with the Bavarians.
Current coach Jupp Heynckes, who took over in 2011 and steered Bayern to the Champions League final last season, has yet to win any titles but, judging by his team's superb performance this season, that could soon change.
Bayern are top of the Bundesliga with a nine-point lead after 17 matches with the best offence and defence of the league, having scored 44 goals while conceding seven.
The Bundesliga resumes this week after a month-long winter break and Bayern also face champions Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup quarter-finals.
They have also advanced in the Champions League to set up a round-of-16 clash with Arsenal next month.
"I have never commented on rumours - whether they came from Italy or England - and I will stick with that today as well," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told reporters when asked about the reports on Guardiola.
The 67-year-old Heynckes, in his third spell at Bayern, has a contract until June and club boss Uli Hoeness, his close friend, had said he would hold talks with him early in the year to decide whether he would stay for another year or not.
Heynckes, who guided Real Madrid to Champions League victory in 1998, was brought out of retirement to replace the sacked Juergen Klinsmann in 2009 for a handful of season-ending games and returned to Bayern again two years later.
Bayern's ultimate goal is to win the Champions League after losing twice in the final in the past three seasons.
With Guardiola's stellar record at Barcelona, club bosses could be forgiven for looking towards the 41-year-old Spaniard.
Guardiola, who stepped down at the end of last term after four triumphant years in which Barca won 14 of the 19 trophies they contested including two Champions League crowns and three La Liga titles, has confirmed he will return to coaching next season.
Bayern are not the only club in Europe capable of paying his wages and Guardiola has been linked in media reports with a number of high-profile management positions, including those at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea should they become vacant.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)