Who will succeed Benitez at Stamford Bridge?

Rafa Benitez has recently told the Chelsea hierarchy they made a “massive mistake” by making his job title interim manager and confirmed that he will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

The 52-year-old was only hired as the Blues’ manager on an interim basis after the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo for failure to qualify from the UEFA Champions League—something that Blues fans are no doubt wishing that Roman Abramovich had never done.

Since the start of his tenure, Benitez has come under heavy fire from Blues supporters and critics for being unable to get the job done with a world-class squad.

Under Benitez, the Blues have crashed out in the Champions League, the Capital One Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. They are 19 points behind in the English Premier League race and in a real fight just to finish inside the top four—dropping points against several bottom teams in the process.

The two tournaments that they are still alive in—the FA Cup and the Europa League—both saw the Blues push through to the next round with less-than-impressive performances. The fact that both of those came against teams that they really should have beaten just reinforced the point.

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Following Benitez’s departure, who will take over as Chelsea boss? Here we look at the most likely candidates.

Jose Mourinho

Mourinho’s future in charge of Real Madrid is under increased scrutiny and the ‘Special One’ has made no secret of his desire to return to England in the future.

Chelsea are believed to be keen on luring the Portuguese back to Stamford Bridge for a second spell, while Manchester City and rivals Manchester United have also been linked with the 50-year-old.

There is only one man that the majority of Chelsea fans want to see in charge for next season and that is Mourinho. But will Roman Abramovich make his move?

Manuel Pellegrini

Pellegrini was linked with the Stamford Bridge hotseat in 2011 when the club were looking for a new manager following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti.

Less than two years later, Chelsea have gone through another two managers – soon to be three – and the Malaga coach is on Abramovich’s shortlist, according to his agent.

Avram Grant

A good friend of Abramovich, former Chelsea manager Grant is a candidate to return to the Stamford Bridge hotseat, according to the Daily Telegraph. Grant remains remains close to the club’s senior officials, and according to Thursday’s report would be available to take charge of the Blues until the end of the current campaign should Benitez be given the boot.

Whether the 58-year-old would be considered for a permanent position, however, remains to be seen.

David Moyes

Moyes is rumoured to be Abramovich’s preferred choice should Mourinho stay at Real Madrid next season.

The Scot has already said that he will leave discussions about a new contract at the club until the summer and if Chelsea, along with Champions League football come calling, he could be tempted to end his time at Goodison Park.

The Everton boss has done a consistently good job on meagre finances at Goodison Park, where he has produced a team to be proud of on Merseyside.  He has always been tipped for one of the top jobs, but Chelsea would mean a major move for Moyes, who has also been mentioned as a potential successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Gus Poyet

One of a couple of options available to Abramovich should he opt to bring a fan favourite back to Stamford Bridge and bring the feel-good factor back to Chelsea. Poyet has gone out and cut his teeth in the Football League, and has taken Brighton from the brink of relegation from League One to the playoff places in the Championship, but would he be considered high profile enough?

Jurgen Klopp

The former German international has been a revelation in charge of Borussia Dortmund, taking the side to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in the last two seasons. Klopp would be a strong contender for any of Europe’s top jobs, but the Bundesliga is booming right now and the prospect of a head-to-head battle with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich next season may well mean Klopp is quite happy where he is. 

Michael Laudrup

Capital One Cup-winner Laudrup has done a remarkable job at the Liberty Stadium since his arrival in the summer, so it was inevitable that he would feature high up in the betting. The current flavour of the month in the Premier League, Laudrup’s calm, level-headed approach might just be exactly what Chelsea need after a turbulent season so far. But can the Dane be convinced to leave the Swans?

Harry Redknapp

Harry was linked heavily with the Stamford Bridge hotseat, but ended up at elsewhere in London as boss of struggling Queens Park Rangers. The odds for a move to Chelsea don’t look bad. Could he make yet another controversial managerial move come the end of the season?

Fabio Capello

Five Serie A titles, two La Liga titles, four Italian Super Cups, plus the Champions League and the European Super Cup – Fabio Capello’s CV stands up against any manager you care to think of.  He’s also known to Abramovich as the current manager of the Russian national team.  Would Roman call in a few favours from the Russian FA and bring Fabio to Stamford Bridge?

Gianfranco Zola

Another manager who would bring a huge wave of optimism and goodwill to the managerial job at Stamford Bridge, Gianfranco Zola’s reputation could not be higher among Chelsea fans.  Considered one of the club’s greatest players in Chelsea’s history, could Zola be the man to put a smile back on the faces of the Chelsea fans?

John Terry

Captain, leader, legend, manager?  He’s been the main man at Chelsea throughout the Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge, outlasting a host of managers in the process.  He was considered an outside bet in the summer before Benitez was appointed, and he’s still surely a contender for the job now.  The big question is would Abramovich trust the skipper to take over?

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