Di Matteo’s successor – the candidates

Well, well, well – Chelsea are without a manager…again. Roberto Di Matteo was handed his P45 by owner Roman Abramovich early on Wednesday morning after overseeing his side succumb to a 3-0 defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.

The Italian becomes the seventh manager to be sacked by the Russian Oligarch since he took over the reins in 2003. It isn’t a record to boast about, but if he isn’t happy with the man at the helm, it’s his right to remove him from power.

Nevertheless, it leaves the Blues managerless, but not without the possible successors to Di Matteo. Either way, below are the likely candidates to take over the poisoned chalice at Stamford Bridge.

Rafa Benitez – Unattached

The beardy Spaniard has been out of work since being relieved of his duties with Inter Milan almost two years ago. However, the former Liverpool boss has been instilled as the favourite to succeed Di Matteo on a short-term basis, with reports suggesting Benitez could be in the Chelsea dugout for Sunday’s encounter with Manchester City.

The former Liverpool boss wouldn’t cost Abramovich an arm and a leg to bring to Stamford Bridge and is thought to be keen on the role. Currently in Abu Dhabi on holiday, Benitez is thought to be flying into London tomorrow in order to tie up a possible deal to take over the helm between now and the end of the season.

Possessing Premiership experience in abundance and, perhaps most importantly, able to get the best out of Fernando Torres, despite running him into the ground during his time at Liverpool. Nevertheless, he has the credentials to land glory with Chelsea, even if some don’t believe so, and would be the right appointment until Abramovich can get his greedy little mits on the next man on the list.

Pep Guardiola – Unattached

The manager that the Russian desperately wants at Stamford Bridge. Abramovich has regularly fluttered his eyelashes at Guardiola since the day he announced he was to leave Barcelona back in April. However, the ‘I’m not looking for a relationship yet’ card played by the Spaniard has warded off interest, until now that is.

Behind Benitez in the favourites list, the young tactician has understandably been linked with a return to management with the Blues. Abramovich is a big admirer of the way he had his Barcelona side playing and is keen for a similar mantra to be instigated at Stamford Bridge.

His attempt with Andre Villas-Boas failed to reap rewards, the now Tottenham Hotspur boss lasting less than 12 months into his contract before being shown the exit door. Yet, Guardiola, who may well be keen on the role, isn’t looking to return to club football until the summer. He made it abundantly clear that he wants to take a year out of the game and is going to do just that.

Harry Redknapp – Unattached

Old Harry Houdini has again been linked with the position of Chelsea manager. The former Spurs boss was mooted with a possible move across London prior to the appointment of Villas-Boas last summer and 18 months later is again seeing his name mentioned in the same sentence as the Blues.

Worked wonders at White Hart Lane and his brand of attractive football is one that will appeal to Abramovich, at least for the short term until Guardiola renders himself available. Furthermore, Redknapp would be able to continue living in Sandbanks and commute to the club’s Cobham training ground on a daily basis, much like he did with Spurs.

However, Abramovich will have to act swiftly if he is to appoint the veteran boss. Ukraine are believed to have held talks with Redknapp in order to become new national team coach, with Andrey Shevchenko believed to be the other contender. While a 29 hour drive to Kiev may not appeal to the former Spurs boss, discussions have already taken place between both parties, meaning Roman will need to move quickly if he wants Redknapp.

Guus Hiddink – Anzhi Makhachkala

The one manager that Abramovich has a soft spot for – like when you date a girl for a short period of time, but agree to remain friends. Hiddink was at the Blues helm for only a short period of time at the end of the 2008/09 season, where the Dutchman led Chelsea to FA Cup glory and lost only once during his three months in charge – a 1-0 defeat away at Spurs.

Hiddink has managed two teams since his days as Blues boss – Turkey and currently Anzhi Makhachkala – but the latter was only on an 18-month deal. While the Russian side will likely pursue compensation, it is hardly going to cost Abramovich a substantial amount of money in order to bring him to Stamford Bridge.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether Chelsea will move for the 66-year-old. Hiddink has a pendant for opting against signing long term deals, something Abramovich would be keen to do with the Dutchman. This is evident in the fact that his position with Anzhi is his first permanent club post in six years.

Diego Simeone – Atletico Madrid

Surprisingly, the one manager that hasn’t been linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge. Simeone has worked wonders for Atletico this season, with the club currently second in La Liga after 12 games, just three points behind league leaders Barcelona. His poor managerial stints with Racing and San Lorenzo may’ve tarnished his CV, but it’s hard to overlook his time with the Madrid side.

One key aspect that would hold the former midfielder in good stead is his relationship with striker Radamel Falcao. The Colombian has again been in stunning form for Atletico this season, netting 13 goals in 10 appearances in all competitions.

This form has seen Chelsea show a strong interest in Falcao, with a January swoop mooted. Should the Blues move for Simeone, it could aid their cause of landing the front-man, who would likely come in to replace the misfiring Torres.