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The next Chelsea manager

Following yesterday’s sacking of Luis Felipe Scolari there has been much speculation as to who the next Chelsea manager will be. A wide range of names have been linked with the job already, some of which I expected to hear and some I most certainly did not. As both a Chelsea fan and someone with a great interest in the wider football world I will be taking a look at some of the names on this list as well as some of those I think ought to be on there. Feel free to disagree with any of my opinions if you so wish.

PS. Before any of you suggest any names I may have left out of this list, please bear in mind that I’d rather have my balls sandblasted than have Martin O’Neill as Chelsea manager. You have been warned.

The names that are always mentioned:

Frank Rijkaard: Won 2 la Liga titles and the Champions League with Barcelona but struggled to contain the egos in the dressing room thanks to his lax attitude toward discipline during his final two years in charge. Overall, would try to play the good football Abramovich seems to crave but seemingly not the man to control the Drogbas and Terrys of this world. Avoid.

Guus Hiddink: Has enjoyed great success at club and international level and known to be a strong disciplinarian. A close friend of Abramovich who may be willing to take the job on a part time basis until the end of the season. However, seems reluctant to leave his job as manager of Russia and has not had a job managing a club outside of Holland for some years. Would be a popular appointment but a risk nonetheless.

Jose Mourinho: Ever since his sacking I’ve maintained that he will not be coming back, no matter how much anyone at the club wants him to. However, you can’t help but wonder when you hear stories about him not being happy in Italy or that he and Abramovich have patched up their differences (Roman recently bought Jose a car as a thank you for everything he did for Chelsea). Has a proven track record in English football and would command the respect of the players. But even if this most unlikely of comebacks is still a possibility, it would almost certainly have to wait until the summer; Inter are 7 points clear in Serie A and Jose would want to have a Scudetto on his CV meaning someone else would have to take charge until the end of the season. I’d love it if Mourinho did come back but still can’t quite see it happening.

Roberto Mancini: Whenever there’s a job going in the Premiership, his name always pops up. Won 3 titles with Inter (the first admittedly by default) and got Lazio into the Champions League with a transfer budget of about 50p, but has no track record outside of Italy and suffered a near mental breakdown last season as Inter were knocked out of the Champions League and almost threw away the scudetto. I worry how he would cope if he ever became embroiled in Ferguson’s mind games or if the team suddenly lost form as Inter did last season. A calculated risk.

The surprise:

Avram Grant: In spite of what some fans may think, I believe Grant did an admirable job as manager last season. Knows the club and the players very well and seemingly remains on good terms with Abramovich in spite of the ruthless nature of his sacking just 2 days after the Champions League final. I would happily welcome him back until the end of the season but worry about the reception he may receive from some of the more moronic sections of support who refuse to acknowledge his achievements and are seemingly unable to see past the fact that he’s Jewish (sad, but true). Such a hostile reception may take its toll on the players and add to the club’s problems.

The up and comers:

Gianfranco Zola: A club legend who would be given time by the fans to turn things round and would probably bring Steve Clarke back with him. After a slow start, has managed to galvanise West Ham, lifting them to 8th in the Premiership and earning rave reviews from the players. Still too inexperienced for me though (Glenn Hoddle proved at Tottenham that returning heroes don’t always make great managers) and recognises that he owes a lot to West Ham for taking a chance on him. Has never broken a contract in his career and, in spite of his oft-stated love of the club, is unlikely to start now. I’m sure he’ll be Chelsea manager one day, but not yet.

Roberto di Matteo: Another club legend, currently guiding MK Dons toward another promotion. Still has no experience of top level management though, could prove to be another Paul Ince. Could one day team up with Zola for the fan’s dream ticket but should not be considered for a few years yet.

Slavan Bilic: Undoubtedly a great motivator, as evidenced by the success he has had with a Croatia team with a few stars but a lot of average players. No experience of club management though and may represent too big a risk than the club is willing to take. Does strike me as a strong disciplinarian though which seems to be what the club needs at the moment, and is clearly a total head case, which would make for some interesting confrontations with other managers.

Not mentioned but worth a look?:

Phil Brown: Laugh if you must but I’m a big fan. In one season turned Hull from Championship relegation fodder into a Premiership club, and is making a good fist of keeping them in the league. Their recent drop in form was inevitable but I still fancy them to survive. One of those managers who just needs a big club to take a chance on him. The biggest risks can sometimes bring the biggest rewards.

Quique Sanchez Flores: Anyone who could cope with the pressure of managing a club like Valencia would have little trouble coping with the pressure at Chelsea. His Valencia team played great football and were competitive in la Liga despite a massive financial disadvantage against Barcelona and Real Madrid. I’d love to see him get the job but doesn’t seem to even be on the board’s radar. A shame.

Thomas Schaaf: If Roman Abramovich wants exciting attacking football, this is the man to provide it. During his time in charge, Werder Bremen have consistently been the top scorers in German football and have won many admirers with their attractive offensive style. However, the flip side to this is frequent kamikaze defending; if Werder score 3 there’s always a chance they’ll let their opponents score 4. Defence has been a big problem for Chelsea this season and I doubt that Schaaf is the man to address this problem.

Sven Goran Eriksson: Was vilified by Chelsea fans when linked with the job 5 years ago but was his record with England really that bad? Not when you compare it to Steve McClaren’s efforts it wasn’t. Made a great start at Manchester City last season before being undermined and eventually forced out my the club owner. Certainly has an eye for a good signing and has a proven track record with big clubs. I’d still rather they looked elsewhere but am now not nearly as hostile to the idea of Sven managing Chelsea as I have been in the past.

Conclusion:

I’d obviously love to have Jose Mourinho back as manager, but as I stated above, I just can’t see that happening. While writing this article I have learned that the club have been talking to Guus Hiddink with the view to him taking over until the end of the season. I would welcome this appointment but still wonder where this would leave us next season. One thing is for certain, whoever is given the job long term, the board have to make the right decision. Chelsea are a team in need of some major surgery at the moment and the new man needs to have the character and the determination to take on this task. Many fans continue to use Jose Mourinho as the yardstick by which all Chelsea managers are judged, any new manager needs to be able to cope with this expectation and return Chelsea to the top of football’s pyramid if he is ever to be spoken about in the same breath as “the Special One”.


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