Guus Hiddink heads stopgap list if Chelsea ditch Jose Mourinho
Chelsea are considering offering Guus Hiddink a second short-term stint as Chelsea manager should Roman Abramovich sack Jose Mourinho – with Diego Simeone their long-term target for next summer.
Hiddink heads a long list of candidates to take over until the end of the season that club owner Abramovich and the Chelsea board are looking at as they deliberate over Mourinho’s future.
With Carlo Ancelotti seemingly out of the frame for a return to Stamford Bridge after reaching a gentlemen’s agreement to succeed Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and Guardiola expected to join Manchester City, Chelsea’s options have been cut.
Discussions between Abramovich and the Chelsea board over whether to sack Mourinho have been ongoing with a conclusion yet to be reached. The club are also drawing up a contingency plan in the event of his departure.
Hiddink, 69, is not the only short-term option under consideration and a decision over him has not been finalised but the Dutchman is emerging as the leading candidate to take the job until the end of this campaign.
He is already well known to Abramovich and won the FA Cup as Chelsea’s caretaker manager 2009, when he was drafted in to clean up the mess left by Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Replacing Mourinho with Hiddink or another out-of-work manager on a short-term deal would allow Chelsea to start work on trying to convince Simeone to agree to take the full-time job next summer.
With Champions League qualification for next season looking increasingly unlikely, convincing Simeone to leave Atletico may be a difficult task but Chelsea would have no problem paying his £15 million release clause.
Antonio Conte, whose contract as Italy manager expires after Euro 2016, is also a long-term target for Chelsea if Simeone is not interested in moving to Stamford Bridge.
Simeone knows the Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and the striker Diego Costa from his time managing the pair at Atletico and the Argentine would be a popular appointment among Blues players, who are worried about some of the other names being linked to replacing Mourinho. In terms of the short-term options, Hiddink’s last job with the Holland national team ended in failure, while the strict methods of Fabio Capello are unappealing to many Chelsea players. Juande Ramos, who is well known to technical director Michael Emenalo, would be a deeply unpopular choice following his disastrous spell as Tottenham manager.
Southampton’s Ronald Koeman and Sevilla’s Unai Emery, who are among the candidates for Chelsea to consider, would both split opinion.
A growing sense of anxiety is developing in the Chelsea squad over the managerial situation at the club, with dressing-room supporters of Mourinho now fearing he is fighting a losing battle to remain in control.
There is also an undercurrent of suspicion regarding the attitudes and actions of certain individuals. Divisions between the players were highlighted, when Costa accused the Chelsea defenders of sleeping after Leicester’s first goal on Monday night. The defeat at the King Power Stadium, coupled with Mourinho’s accusation that his players had “betrayed” his work, has increased the feeling within the squad that the Portuguese is heading for the exit door.
Other than his strong words in the post-match press conference at Leicester, Mourinho claimed some players need to change their attitudes on the club’s in-house television station.
“Some of them need to rethink how they live Chelsea, they live football, they live their job,” he said. “Chelsea is big, football is more than a job, it’s a passion. I think every match on the pitch you should live with an unbelievable passion.
“How many millions would love to be football players and they can’t be? You shouldn’t waste any minutes on the pitch, you should enjoy every minute and you should give absolutely everything.
“Yes, I feel frustrated with some players and I feel that some others they give absolutely everything and don’t deserve to lose.”
Despite his outburst after the Leicester game, it is understood that Mourinho was in a relaxed mood in training yesterday and did not issue any rallying calls or personally lay into his players.
Chelsea are just one point above the relegation zone and West Ham’s Andy Carroll has claimed they could go down.
“It is hard to think Chelsea could be in the bottom three at the end of the season,” Carroll said. “But the way they are going, I don’t see why they can’t get relegated. It’s on the cards. It’s crazy to see, the quality in that team, at the bottom of the league. It is tough to actually realise that they are such a good team, with quality players, and who spent so much money on those players – they just can’t string a pass together at the minute.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)