Jose protege Villas-Boas in Chelsea sights as Ancelotti heads for exit
Carlo Ancelotti's fate has been sealed by Chelsea's mediocre display at Old Trafford on Sunday. Any forlorn hope that Roman Abramovich might offer him a reprieve was dashed in the 37 seconds it took for Manchester United to stamp their dominance on the game.
Ancelotti admitted afterwards his team had fallen short this season, an assessment that Chelsea owner Abramovich may also apply to the manager. After seeing his team win the Double last season, Abramovich has watched them go backwards in the 12 months since.
A few hours later, and 890 miles away, one of the men being assessed as a possible replacement for Ancelotti, Porto's young manager Andre Villas-Boas, was presented with the Portuguese championship after a 3-3 draw with Pacos de Ferreira.
At just 33, Villas-Boas is in his first season as Porto manager and has yet to lose in the league after 29 matches. He has also guided the club to a place in next week's Europa League final against Braga at the Aviva Stadium.
Villas-Boas' remarkable season has made him a serious candidate to replace Ancelotti, and he meets the criteria that Abramovich is looking for. He is young and innovative, his team plays attacking, entertaining football, and he has worked at Chelsea before, when he was one of the assistants brought in by his mentor Jose Mourinho.
But Chelsea's preferred option remains to appoint Guus Hiddink, who was caretaker manager and won the FA Cup with Chelsea two years ago after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked. Hiddink (64) has ruled out returning to Stamford Bridge while he is still the national coach of Turkey, which he is contracted to remain up to the European Championship finals next summer.
But Abramovich still hopes to lure the Dutchman to Chelsea -- either as manager or to take up an influential place on the board, to oversee a young coach below him.
Villas-Boas, who worked with Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale, has spoken in the past of his desire to work in the Premier League, although he is thought to have reservations about whether he would be ready to take over a club as big as Chelsea so early in his career.
Others being considered include the former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, the current Fulham manager Mark Hughes, the ex-Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard and the former Netherlands manager Marco van Basten.
The new manager's task will be not only to win either the Premier League or the Champions League next season, or preferably both, but also to oversee the rebuilding of an ageing team that has done Chelsea proud for the past seven seasons.