The writing is seemingly on the wall for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, and it appears to simply be a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Roman Abramovich consciously uncouples with his manager as they continue to slip down the title market.
There will be no shortage of contenders to be his replacement – a sleeping giant is always an attractive proposition – and here are five gaffers in the frame.
Carlo Ancelotti may have ‘history’ with Roman Abramovich, but as we saw in the re-appointment of Jose Mourinho the Russian is no stranger to going back to his previous incumbents – even the ones he has sacked (Mourinho). Pride is clearly not an issue here.
The Italian had a spell in charge of the club from 2009 to 2011, in which he led them to a league and cup double, and is said to still be on good terms with Abramovich despite being sacked by the Russian billionaire in the tunnel at Goodison Park towards the end of the 2010/11 campaign.
Ancelotti is a three-time Champions League winner with AC Milan (twice) and Real Madrid, and has won leagues in three different countries (England, Italy and France). His faultless pedigree has not been helped by his sacking by Real, where a trophy-less season didn’t endear him to the locals or – more importantly – president Florentino Perez.
The biggest bone of contention in his re-appointment is a back operation, which means he wouldn’t be able to take over the reins until next season.
Fabio Capello has made no secret of the fact that he would be happy to take over at the helm of Chelsea, and as a manager that has won everything there is at club level – including the Champions League and Serie A with two different teams – it makes sense to sit up and listen.
But a poor spell as England boss certainly won’t have endeared him to the Chelsea faithful, and as Abramovich proved in the return of the Special One, he is willing to listen to the supporters. Furthermore Capello was sacked by Russia following their disastrous start to their Euro 2016 qualification campaign, and how that would sit with the proud patriot Abramovich is anybody’s guess.
The Spaniard is something of a history-maker after his Atletico Madrid side sledgehammered their way into Spanish football folklore by breaking Barcelona and Real Madrid’s duopoly on the La Liga trophy, and he subsequently then led them to a Champions League final during the same 2013/14 campaign.
The 45-year-old is known as something of a firebrand – as evidenced by him running onto the pitch to confront Raphael Varane after the young Frenchman allegedly kicked the ball at him during that Champions League finale, and Mourinho apart it seems that Abramovich prefers more mild-mannered sorts (Claudio Ranieri, Guus Hiddinck, Ancelotti et al). But his no-nonsense approach could be exactly what this team of preening prima donnas needs.
With the rumours ongoing regarding his future at Bayern Munich, it is no surprise for Pep Guardiola to be linked to the Chelsea job.
His contract in Germany runs out in the summer, and until/if a new deal is penned the Spaniard is likely to be at the centre of a huge tug-of-war between many of Europe’s finest sides for his signature.
As we know, money talks in football; and Abramovich has no shortage of it. And having conquered Spanish football with Barcelona and now the Bundesliga with Bayern, perhaps English football is next on the agenda for the likeable 44-year-old.
The big question is whether Abramovich can persuade him to sign on the dotted line, given that Chelsea are highly unlikely to be plying their trade in the Champions League next term. Will Guardiola want to manage at the elite level, or would a rebuilding job appeal to his senses?
The Dutchman is something of a cult hero at Stamford Bridge after his short tenure in caretaker charge in 2009 culminated in an FA Cup final win and a controversial loss in the Champions League semi final to Barcelona.
Hiddink endured something of a ‘mare in the post at his native Holland recently, and so his stock has fallen somewhat. But his enduring love at Chelsea – apparently the likes of John Terry and Michael Ballack begged him to stay after his short-term contract ended – could be a factor.
But at the age of 69 his appointment is likely to be a short term one, perhaps filling in for a departed Mourinho until the end of the campaign. And so his worth in the Next Permanent Chelsea Manager betting market is limited.