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The Toe Poke

Chelsea: The contenders

Following Chelsea's decision to sack coach Luiz Felipe Scolari less than a year into his tenure, we take a look at the possible candidates to take over from the Brazilian at Stamford Bridge.

The Dutchman, currently employed as Russia coach, was reportedly high on Chelsea's wish-list before they settled on Scolari in the summer. Regarded as one of the most astute tacticians in world football Hiddink's efforts in taking Russia to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 mark him as an obvious candidate for Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. Unlike Scolari, the Dutchman has also made his name at club level in Europe having guided PSV Eindhoven to three Eredivisie titles as well as the semi-finals of the 2004-05 Champions League.

WE SAY: Despite the Russian federation having issued a "hands off" warning to Chelsea it seems Hiddink is holding talks with Chelsea about becoming their new manager until the end of the season. Hiddink also intends to carry on his role with Russia and it seems unlikely that Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich will have much a of a problem with that.

A legend during his playing days at Chelsea, Zola would be a hugely popular choice among the Stamford Bridge faithful. Despite his relative inexperience in club football he has forged a good reputation since taking over as manager at West Ham this season with former Blues assistant Steve Clarke by his side.

WE SAY: This link is based on the fact that some supporters at Stamford Bridge held a banner that read "Scolari out, Chelsea legends Zola/Di Matteo in" during the 0-0 draw with Hull City. A legend as a player, but not as a manager. He is still learning his trade and having just got rid of a World Cup winner in Scolari, the Stamford Bridge power mongers are unlikely to take a chance with an untested manager.

Chelsea's most successful manager having led them to back-to-back league titles, the Portuguese is the most exalted of all Blues managers. Sacked at the start of last season, Mourinho has since stated he would one day like to return to management in England. A return to Stamford Bridge would, however, seem unlikely with an apparent falling out with Abramovich leading to his departure, while he remains contracted to Inter Milan - who currently lead Serie A by seven points.

WE SAY: Dream on! After being booted out of Stamford Bridge by owner Roman Abramovich pride alone would prevent the self proclaimed 'Special One' from returning to Chelsea. Add to that the fact he is now in charge of Serie A leaders, and big spenders, Inter Milan and it is obvious there is no chance.

The former Barcelona boss has been out of work since leaving the Catalan club at the end of last season. During his five-year spell at the Nou Camp the 46-year-old led Barca to two league titles as well as Champions League success when they beat Arsenal 2-1 in the 2005/06 final.

WE SAY: Despite having a few run-ins with Chelsea in the Champions League this looks like the best option in Soccernet's opinion. Out of work Rijkaard has experience of managing a big club with big players and would also provide the attacking football so craved for by Abramovich. But this is football and just because it makes perfect sense doesn't mean it will happen. Watch this space.

Another former Blues fans' favourite Di Matteo is best remembered for scoring the fastest FA Cup final goal as the Blues beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in 1997. He was named as manager of League One club MK Dons in the summer and has them on track for promotion in his first season with the team currently sitting second in the table.

WE SAY: Remember Paul Ince? Plucked from lower league football with the MK Dons to manage Blackburn Rovers and was sacked by the Premier League club six months later. This rumour emanates from the same "Scolari out, Chelsea legends Zola/Matteo in" banner.

The Israeli was replaced by Scolari in the summer after taking the Blues to their first Champions League final where they lost on penalties to Manchester United. His softly-spoken mentality, and the fact he succeeded Mourinho, meant Grant was never truly accepted by Blues fans.

WE SAY: He wasn't good enough for Chelsea after guiding the club to within a whisker of winning the Champions League and Premier League last season, so what makes him good enough now? Well the fact that he might take the job on a temporary basis so that the Blues can appoint somebody else in the summer of course. According to some reports only he and Guus Hiddink are on Chelsea's short-list and, as we have already ruled out the Dutchman, it looks like Avram Grump is Chelsea bound.


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