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3 Former Chelsea Players Fans Would Love to See Replace Rafa Benitez

Rowanne WesthenryFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2013

3 Former Chelsea Players Fans Would Love to See Replace Rafa Benitez

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    To say that Chelsea fans were unhappy when former player and Champions League winning manager Roberto Di Matteo was replaced by Liverpool legend Rafa Benitez would be downplaying the raw, emotional pain of betrayal that ripped through the Stamford Bridge faithful in November 2012. Since that day, the atmosphere around the club has been poisonous, with supporters attempting to juggle their passionate backing of the boys in blue with a vehement rejection of the actions of the board.

    As the 2012-13 season enters the final weeks, thoughts are turning toward replacements for "The Interim One." Jose Mourinho is the front-runner amongst the bookies and Blues fans alike, but he is not the only former star linked with the "permanent" manager's job at Chelsea FC.

    If there were some kind of guarantee in place that these former players would be treated better than Roberto Di Matteo, Bruce Buck and Ron Gourlay could improve their standings in the eyes of the supporters by suggesting these three names to Roman Abramovich.

Didier Deschamps

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    Whilst Deschamps' is a name that has never really reverberated around Stamford Bridge, his lone season at Chelsea in 1999-2000 brought FA Cup success. He achieved honours at the highest level in France and Italy throughout his playing career and was the youngest captain to win the Champions League.

    After retiring in 2001 at the relatively young age of 32, he turned his hand to management, guiding Monaco to the Champions League Final in 2004. He returned to his former club Juventus in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that saw them relegated to Serie B, taking them back to Serie A before resigning his position at the end of the season. Deschamps then took two years off before taking charge of Marseille in 2009, bringing the Ligue One title to the south of France in his first season. Despite his contract running until 2014, he stepped up to the International stage with France when Laurent Blanc resigned after a farcical Euro 2012 tournament.

    With Chelsea needing to hone their defensive midfield, Deschamps could be remembered for more than one goal if he swapped Les Bleus for The Blues.

Gianfranco Zola

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    Every Chelsea supporter who followed the club before 2003 loves Gianfranco Zola. Grown men shed tears when Abramovich's billions failed to make the little Sardinian go back on his word to end his career at Cagliari. His contribution to the resurgent Chelsea of the mid- to late 1990s was a joy to behold, and even the Queen of England felt that he should be honoured with an O.B.E.

    Having honoured his promise by playing the final two seasons of his career at Cagliari, Zola went into management with the Italian under-21 side. He spent two years as Pierluigi Casiraghi's assistant before replacing Alan Curbishley at Chelsea's London rivals West Ham in September 2009.

    Such is Zola's humble charm that he won over the Irons faithful despite his connection to the Blues and still received a standing ovation when he brought his new club to Stamford Bridge. In the two years he was in charge at Upton Park, he kept the Hammers in the Premier League, which is more than can be said for his successor, and he was praised for bringing young players such as Jack Collison into the first-team squad.

    Zola is currently nearing the end of his first season in charge of Watford FC, with the club engaged in a fierce battle for promotion from the Championship. If they are successful, it is highly unlikely that Gianfranco would consider coming back to Chelsea. However, having spent the past season working with on-loan youngster Nathan Chalobah and tipping him as the next Frank Lampard, there is every chance that his heart could overrule his head and see him reunited with the fans who still hold him in such high regard.

Steve Clarke

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    Steve Clarke played his last match for Chelsea in the 1998 European Cup Winners' Cup Final after 11 years and 421 appearances. His ability to read the game helped to lay the foundations for the success that the club have been enjoying since 1997, and he has experience in a coaching role at the club.

    After retiring as a player, Clarke joined fellow former Blue Ruud Gullit at Newcastle United before returning to Chelsea as part of the academy setup. He was promoted in 2004 as assistant to Jose Mourinho, overseeing back-to-back Premier League titles. The departure of the Portuguese in 2007 prompted fears within the squad that Clarke would be following him out of the club. In the summer of 2008, he resigned his position at Chelsea to join Gianfranco Zola at West Ham.

    A spell at Liverpool followed before he gained his first outright managerial appointment at West Bromwich Albion in 2012. The Baggies are a very respectable eighth place in the Premier League, and Clarke's work with loanee Romelu Lukaku coupled with his history with the club could provide the crucial combination for this transitioning Chelsea squad.

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