Rafa Benitez has made it very clear that he will not be in charge of Chelsea next season. Whilst this will be a relief for fans, the matter of who succeeds him will be key to rebuilding a club that has imploded immediately after arguably its finest hour.
The Daily Mail has reported that former manager Jose Mourinho is on the brink of signing a deal that would see him return to Stamford Bridge. SkyBet has him at 1-2 to be the next permanent Chelsea manager, a move that would be most welcomed by the fans.
Whether Roman Abramovich would be able to overcome the issues that saw Mourinho depart in September 2007 should make anyone think twice about believing in that: If the Russian has shown anything in his decade at Stamford Bridge, it's that you can never really know what he's thinking.
Oddschecker.com has David Moyes at the next best price. Moyes has done an excellent job with very limited resources at Everton. The club has lived within its means, and qualification for the Champions League in 2005 gave its finances a boost, but Moyes' dealings in the transfer windows have always been savvy.
In 11 years, he has taken the Merseyside club from relegation candidates to consistent contenders for a European spot, garnering praise from Sir Alex Ferguson, who wants Moyes to succeed him at Manchester United. With offers on the table from clubs with a history of allowing managers to build a legacy, it is unlikely that the chance to take over at a club that will have been through 10 managers in 10 years will really hold any appeal to him.
Your next best bets are Gianfranco Zola and Fabio Capello, closely followed by Guus Hiddink. Zola is held in incredibly high esteem at Stamford Bridge. Ten years on from his departure, the adoration that watching him play inspired is still there, and to see him treated poorly would alienate the fans irretrievably. It was bad enough seeing Roberto Di Matteo sacked at 4 a.m. and replaced within hours by Rafa Benitez.
If Abramovich did the same to Zola, it would kill any chance of a relationship with the fans and ruin any chance he may have of convincing the Chelsea Pitch Owners to sell him the freehold of Stamford Bridge.
Fabio Capello was in charge of two former Chelsea managers during his first spell at AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti and Ruud Gullit, which shows the wealth of experience he has in the game. However, the past five years of his career have been spent coaching in the international arena. Biennial tournaments mean games are few and far between for national sides, and a return to the sort of workload faced at a club like Chelsea would be a shock to any system.
Guus Hiddink had previously announced that he would retire at the end of this season when his current contract with Anzhi Makhachkala expires, although he has since refused to rule out a return to Chelsea. He enjoyed success as the interim manager in 2009, as he won the FA Cup and guided the Blues to a third-place finish in the Premier League.
As much as the numbers suggest that Mourinho only needs to sign a deal that has already been negotiated, Hiddink would be a smart move for Abramovich. He also has a history with the "old guard" and is respected by everyone at the club. If the return of the Special One turns out to be another wonderful piece of press fodder, Hiddink could herald a new era of stability at Stamford Bridge.
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