Wednesday 21 March 2018

Chelsea players worried by quality of possible mid-season Jose Mourinho replacements

Guus Hiddink is emerging as the most realistic caretaker option, with Carlo Ancelotti expected to join Bayern Munich next summer

Guus Hiddink could manage Chelsea on a caretaker basis
Guus Hiddink could manage Chelsea on a caretaker basis

Matt Law

Chelsea players are worried about the standard of possible mid-season replacements for manager Jose Mourinho – even though dressing-room supporters of the Portuguese are now starting to fear he is fighting a losing battle to remain in control.

Guus Hiddink is emerging as the most realistic caretaker option if Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decides to make a mid-season change, as Carlo Ancelotti has a gentleman’s agreement to succeed Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

Mourinho was described as being in a relaxed mood as he took training on Wednesday, despite the fact Abramovich and the Chelsea board have been discussing his future since the defeat at Leicester City.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport on Wednesday, Chelsea are now drawing up a contingency plan in the event of Abramovich sacking Mourinho but the Blues squad are unimpressed by many of the candidates.

Former Chelsea manager Ancelotti had appeared to be the most attractive option of the managers currently out of work, but the Italian is in line to replace Guardiola at Bayern Munich at the end of the season – ruling him out of a Stamford Bridge return.

With Guardiola most likely to take over at Manchester City and Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte not available before next summer, Chelsea are considering a list of alternative and short-term options, which is currently headed by Hiddink.

Bayern Munich's coach Pep Guardiola

The 69-year-old won the FA Cup as caretaker manager of Chelsea in 2009 and enjoys a good relationship with Abramovich. But his last job in charge of the Holland national team ended in failure, prompting fears among some Chelsea players that his best days may be behind him.

With talk now rife over who could replace Mourinho, the Blues squad are questioning whether any of the realistic immediate options would be good enough to help them turn around the club’s dismal season.

Certainly, Juan Ramos, who managed Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo at Spanish club Llieda, would be a deeply unpopular choice following a disastrous spell as Tottenham Hotspur manager.

There are similar fears over the strict methods of former England manager Fabio Capello, who is out of work and remains close to Chelsea captain John Terry.

 Other options for Chelsea to consider include Sevilla’s Unai Emery and Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman

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A growing sense of anxiety is developing in the Chelsea squad over the managerial situation at the club and there is also an undercurrent of suspicion regarding the attitudes and actions of certain individuals.

Divisions between the players were highlighted, when Diego 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.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's future is under the spotlight as his team continues to struggle in the Premier League

Mourinho still has supporters in the Chelsea squad, but even they are becoming resigned to the fact that he may be heading for the exit door.

Despite his outburst after the Leicester game, it is understood Mourinho did not issue any rallying calls or lay into his players once again in training on Wednesday. Instead, the atmosphere was apparently relaxed and the manager was no more animated than usual.

Chelsea are currently just one point above the Premier League relegation zone and West Ham striker Andy Carroll has claimed last season’s champions could go down.

“It is hard to think Chelsea could be in the bottom three at the end of the season,” said Carroll. “But the way they are going, I don't see why they can't get relegated. I think 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.”

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