Chelsea eye up Howe, Hughes and Ranieri in managerial shortlist
Chelsea are drawing up a contingency list of managerial targets that includes Eddie Howe, Mark Hughes and Claudio Ranieri in case the club cannot land a stellar name this summer.
With the Manchester City and Manchester United target Pep Guardiola seemingly out of their reach, Chelsea have identified Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and the Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri as their top choices to take over as the club's next permanent manager.
However, with Chelsea facing the very real prospect of missing out on Champions League qualification and possibly even finishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, the club's hierarchy are having to contemplate more achievable alternatives.
That means Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, may be forced to consider hiring his first British manager or bringing Ranieri back to the club.
Howe has drawn admirers within the corridors of power at Chelsea's Cobham training base for his work with Bournemouth, while there is support for turning to Hughes, the former Chelsea player who is now Stoke City manager.
Handing the top job to a 38-year-old Englishman with only 12 months of experience in the Premier League may be a step too far for Abramovich, but Howe is certainly under consideration.
Chelsea's last permanent English manager was Glenn Hoddle, who was in charge from 1993 to 1996. Having spent last summer pursuing and failing to sign John Stones and going through a similar goose chase with Wayne Rooney in 2013, Chelsea do not want to be suckered into a fruitless pursuit of a big-name manager.
Chelsea have started to sound out the representatives of some of their candidates in an attempt to ensure that they go after the right man who will not turn them down.
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They will try to land Simeone from Atletico, with the Spanish club powerless to keep the Argentine if Chelsea meet his £15million release clause. But with Atletico joint top of La Liga with Barcelona and Simeone as happy as he has ever been in Madrid, it remains to be seen whether he will be prepared to take on the challenge at Chelsea. Simeone would want to overhaul the Chelsea squad and demand assurances that he, and not technical director Michael Emenalo, would have the final say over transfers.
Allegri led Juventus to the last season's Champions League final and won a domestic double in Italy, and is contracted to the club until 2017. But the Italian is believed to be learning English in preparation for potentially moving to the Premier League. Like Simeone, however, Allegri has been touted as a potential summer target for Manchester United if they sack Louis van Gaal and miss out on Guardiola.
Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, will firmly reject any approaches from Chelsea or United for his impressive head coach Mauricio Pochettino.
Whoever takes over at Chelsea will be instructed to bring the first-team and Academy set-ups closer together, with the aim of promoting more young players.
Guus Hiddink, the interim manager, has already worked to bridge gaps that had appeared under Jose Mourinho, who stopped the youth teams using the first-team swimming pool for recovery sessions and banned Academy staff from wearing their initials on club tracksuits and coats.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have also made a shock bid to sign New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga. The 20-year-old has less than a year to run on his Red Bulls contract and does not require a work permit, due to the fact he holds a Polish passport. The club also confirmed that Ramires has joined Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning for a deal worth around £20m.