Following the news that Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas-Boas, we look at the leading candidates to succeed him at Stamford Bridge.
Villas-Boas became the seventh manager to depart the club during the reign of owner Roman Abramovich after a shock defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend compounded a run of desperately poor form.
His assistant Roberto Di Matteo has been placed in temporary charge until the end of the season but Abramovich and his coterie of advisors must now embark on the process of finding a long-term candidate for a job that proved too much for the young Portuguese.
It is estimated that the process of sacking Carlo Ancelotti, releasing Villas-Boas from his contract at Porto last summer and now sacking the 34-year-old will cost Abramovich an estimated £50 million.
After making such a costly mistake, the onus is now on Chelsea to ensure their next appointment is the correct one.
Jose Mourinho (9/4) – The Special One set the standards by which all Chelsea managers are judged, winning back-to-back league titles and three major cups before his reign at Stamford Bridge ended abruptly in 2007 amid speculation of a dispute with Abramovich over transfer policy. However, his relationship with the Russian has since improved and having won the treble with Inter in 2010 his reputation has only grown away from Chelsea. It is widely anticipated he will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season – with the Liga trophy tucked under his arm – and Mourinho was recently spotted house-hunting in London. If granted the funds and power he craves by Abramovich, then he could well return to a country, league and club that he loves, and loves him in return.
Rafa Benitez (7/2) – The Spaniard was Mourinho’s replacement at Inter yet struggled to emulate the success of his predecessor and was sacked after six months for issuing an ultimatum to president Massimo Moratti. While Benitez has cut something of a comical figure on occasions given the way his Liverpool reign imploded amid rants about “facts” and detailed analyses of net spending, his credentials, particularly in Europe, are impressive, having won La Liga and the Uefa Cup with Valencia and the FA Cup and Champions League with Liverpool. Benitez may well be able to get the best out of his former protégée Fernando Torres, but he is a rigid tactician and disciplinarian, and perhaps not an ideal fit for a dressing room known to wield too much power behind the scenes.
Pep Guardiola (4/1) – If, as is widely believed, Abramovich wants to see a young, vibrant Chelsea team capable of dominating European football, then where better to turn than to Barcelona and Guardiola, who has won the Champions League in two of his three seasons as a manager while being the architect of one of the great club sides of all time? Guardiola’s insistence on signing short-term deals at Camp Nou means he is out of contract at the end of the current season and there has been speculation that he may seek a new challenge. Quite why he would want to swap Messi for Malouda is anyone’s guess though, and getting the best out of an ageing, entrenched squad at Stamford Bridge would represent a very different challenge to that which he faces at Barca. While no one can doubt his aptitude as a coach having won 13 trophies in four seasons to become the most successful boss in Barcelona’s history, there are also doubts as to whether he would thrive away from Camp Nou and in a very different football culture.
Roberto Di Matteo (15/2) – Deemed not good enough to keep his job at West Brom last season, Di Matteo now has an unexpected chance to press his claims for arguably English football’s most difficult managerial job. If the Italian secures Champions League football for next season and enjoys success in the cup competitions then perhaps Abramovich will be convinced of his suitability for the role. However, Avram Grant was elbowed aside having reached the Champions League final in the wake of Mourinho’s exit and it would surely take something spectacular for the Italian to secure the job on a long-term basis, despite his status as a fan favourite due to his successful playing career at Stamford Bridge between 1996 and 2002.
Fabio Capello (8/1) – Though a rather unpopular figure in England after a disappointing World Cup in 2010 and his resignation from the national job in February, Capello’s record at club level is almost peerless. He has won league trophies with Milan, Roma, Juventus and during two spells with Real Madrid, as well as winning the Champions League with Milan in 1994. Capello knows some of Chelsea’s senior players very well having managed John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole with England: indeed his loyalty to Terry forced his resignation on a point of principle when the defender was stripped of the captaincy. Capello had previously said the England job would be his last in management but a chance to return to club game at the elite level would surely appeal.
Bert van Marwijk (16/1) – The first genuine outsider on the list, Van Marwijk led Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final before they tried to kick Spain out of the game and suffered a shameful defeat in Johannesburg. Their successful qualification campaign for Euro 2012 has been more admirable though and Van Marwijk’s side defeated England 3-2 at Wembley last week. His club record bears scrutiny having won the Uefa Cup and Dutch Cup in two spells with Feyenoord, but Van Marwijk’s highest league finish was second in the Eredivisie and he is a novice in the Champions League, which is unlikely to appeal to Abramovich.
Marcelo Bielsa (16/1) – Mooted as a shock contender last month as pressure increased on Villas-Boas, Bielsa may not have a big profile in England but he is regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative coaches in world football. Bielsa managed Argentina between 1998 and 2004, winning an Olympic gold in Athens, and then earned acclaim for the style with which his team performed in his subsequent role as Chile manager between 2007 and 2011. Bielsa is a tactical trendsetter, beloved of football thinkers around the globe, and played in an unfamiliar 3-3-1-3 formation at Chile. Appointed at Athletic Bilbao last summer, he has the Basque side fighting hard for fourth place as well as looking forward to a Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and a Europa League contest with Manchester United.
Guus Hiddink (20/1) – It is just three weeks since the Dutchman was appointed head coach of Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala yet such is the esteem Abramovich holds him in, he is seen as a possible contender for the Chelsea job. Hiddink stepped into the breach following the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2009 on a caretaker basis and won the FA Cup as well as being denied passage to the Champions League final in controversial circumstances as Barcelona snuck through thanks to a goal from Andres Iniesta. A long-term confidant of Abramovich, his record at club level with PSV Eindhoven – where he won the Champions League and six league titles across two spells – and at international level with Netherlands, South Korea and Australia make him an attractive candidate, as does his popularity with the Chelsea playing staff.