Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge of Chelsea ended ignominiously on Thursday, with the Portuguese sacked just eight months after winning the Premier League title.
The 52-year-old has managed just four wins from 16 matches in the league so far this season, leaving the reigning champions only one point clear of the relegation zone.
The decision leaves owner Roman Abramovich again seeking to replace the most successful manager in the club’s history.
Be it a short-term solution or long-term successor, the new man will be required to steer the team to safety and attempt to prolong the club’s Champions League campaign, with Paris Saint-Germain awaiting in the round of 16 next year.
So who are the candidates to take over Stamford Bridge?
The former Sevilla and Tottenham boss had touted in the days leading up to Mourinho’s dismissal as a possible caretaker. The Spaniard has been out of work since leaving Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in 2014. Ramos is unlikely to wow the demanding Blues supporters and may not have the passion necessary to rouse the squad from their prolonged slump.
The 69-year-old Dutchman was linked by several outlets with the post in the immediate wake of Mourinho’s sacking. The former PSV Eindhoven and Real Madrid coach succeeded Luiz Felipe Scolari on a temporary basis at Chelsea in 2009, guiding the team to FA Cup success. His stock has fallen since then and he was most recently spotted failing to impress during his second spell in charge of the Netherlands national team.
Once a member of Mourinho’s backroom staff at Chelsea, the Northern Irishman has since earned promotion with Swansea City and taken Liverpool on a thrilling title challenge in 2013-14, securing Champions League qualification in the process, before receiving the sack earlier this season.
Apparently adamant he is deserving of a long-term role at a heavyweight club, a caretaker position may not be to the 42-year-old’s liking, while Abramovich and his advisors would surely be reluctant to offer more than a deal until the end of the season. David Moyes, a flop at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, is also available.
The Italian won the Premier League and the FA Cup with Chelsea between 2009 and 2011 before receiving his marching orders, going on to win Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain and the Champions League at Real Madrid.
Many feel he was harshly dismissed by Abramovich four years ago but it remains to be seen if he could be lured back. Ancelotti, who had back surgery after leaving Madrid earlier this year, has publicly stated his intention to wait until the end of this season to return to management.
He will not be the caretaker, but the former Barcelona coach is expected to imminently announce his decision to leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season.
Manchester City, led by senior former Barca figures Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, are believed to be in pole position to secure his services, but underperforming Manchester United and now manager-less Chelsea could yet enter the race.
The ex-Liverpool boss won the Europa League with Chelsea after replacing Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo, himself initially a caretaker, in 2012-13.
The Spaniard is now in charge at Real Madrid but is proving less than universally popular with the Santiago Bernabeu faithful. Perhaps a sensational straight swap could be possible, with former Madrid president Ramon Calderon – no friend of incumbent supremo Florentino Perez – touting a return for Mourinho to the Spanish capital.
And while that may be an unlikely prospect, so was the likelihood of Mourinho being sacked before the turn of the year when he lifted his third Premier League title in May.