Pep Guardiola could be in running for Chelsea job if Jose Mourinho is axed
ROMAN Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, will be encouraged to try for a second time to convince Pep Guardiola to accept the job as manager at Stamford Bridge if Jose Mourinho cannot quickly turn around the club’s alarming slump.
Intermediaries, working independently and not at the request of Abramovich or Chelsea, are already attempting to gauge whether Guardiola would be interested in taking over at Stamford Bridge when his Bayern Munich contract expires at the end of the season. They want to be in a position to hand Guardiola to the Blues owner if Mourinho is sacked.
The hope at Chelsea remains that Mourinho will find a solution to his team’s problems but a fifth Premier League defeat of the season, against West Ham United, increased the threat that Abramovich will eventually feel he is left with no option but to make a change.
Other than the result on Saturday, the growing sense that Mourinho is struggling to remain in control was heightened by the fact that he was sent to the Upton Park stands for ranting at the referee Jonathan Moss at half-time.
Sources claim Mourinho was invited into the referee’s room during the break, but was sent off for raging at Moss over the sending off of Nemanja Matic and the decision to disallow a Cesc Fabregas goal. One unconfirmed account alleged that Mourinho made reference to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and then swore at Moss. The Football Association will now wait for Moss’ report before deciding whether Mourinho and assistant first-team coach Silvinho Louro, who was also sent from the dug-out, will serve a touchline ban or be fined.
Abramovich, whose 49th birthday was on Saturday, and the Chelsea board publicly backed Mourinho after the Southampton defeat, but the Portuguese will be fighting to save his job if his team are beaten in their next Premier League game, at home against Liverpool.
The biggest question for Abramovich would be who could take over immediately from Mourinho, with realistic caretaker options limited. Carlo Ancelotti is out of work, while Guus Hiddink would be available to take on the interim role he occupied at Chelsea in 2009, when he won the FA Cup.
In the long term, Guardiola would be Abramovich’s first choice to replace Mourinho. The billionaire owner failed in an approach for the Spaniard in 2013, with his record of hiring and firing managers believed to be a factor. Bayern have not given up hope of convincing Guardiola to stay in Germany but the Spaniard, 44, wants to manage in the Premier League and is already thought to be a target of Manchester City.
Abramovich, though, has gone some way to proving he is not quite so trigger happy as he was in the past by genuinely trying to back Mourinho after handing him a four-year contract in August while the lure of London could be attractive to Guardiola. Mourinho has claimed that he will not be sacked if Chelsea finish mid-table, but that is an optimistic prediction with Abramovich likely to act as soon as he genuinely feels that Champions League qualification is at risk.
With Mourinho’s position precarious, intermediaries, working without a mandate from Abramovich or Chelsea, are trying to put a deal in place to take Guardiola to Stamford Bridge in case the club decide to make a change.
Chelsea had to pay Mourinho around £18 million in compensation when Abramovich first sacked him in 2007. The full value of his current deal is over £30 million, but insiders claim that the club have protected themselves better this time around without revealing the exact nature of what any pay-off would be.
While Mourinho did himself no favours by getting sent to the Upton Park stands, he can legitimately argue that he was once again let down by individual errors from players who should be performing much better.
Ramires and Diego Costa failed to make routine clearances before Dimitri Payet’s corner made its way to Mauro Zarate, who lashed the ball past Asmir Begovic. John Terry, the captain, also failed to clear his lines, allowing Aaron Cresswell to cross for the substitute Andy Carroll to head West Ham’s winner.
Mourinho and the Chelsea bench were angered by Matic’s sending off, but the Serb should have known better than to pull down Cheikhou Kouyaté and then bundle over Diafra Sakho, when César Azpilicueta was covering.
Gary Cahill scored for Chelsea, who briefly rallied with 10 men, but it seems a number of the Chelsea players who comfortably won the Premier League title last term thought they would be able to coast through another season.
Costa’s commitment cannot be questioned, but he should have been fined for returning for pre-season overweight, while the fact Eden Hazard stepped off the plane in Kiev last week and immediately ‘liked’ an Instagram post linking him to Real Madrid show where his priorities appear to lie.
While some players spent the international break publicly backing Mourinho, others have apparently held private conversations to speculate whether or not they would stay at Chelsea if the club miss out on qualification to the Champions League.
Other than shooting themselves in the foot, Chelsea were also unfortunate against West Ham on two occasions. The Goal Decision System showed that Kurt Zouma’s header was just millimetres from fully crossing the line, while replays suggested Fàbregas was level with the West Ham defence before shooting into the net and being flagged for offside.
Other than ruling on whether or not Mourinho and Louro receive touchline bans, which would be served in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup clash against Stoke City, the FA will fine Chelsea for failing to control their players against West Ham after the Blues received seven yellow cards. The club could also face a Premier League fine for failing to put up a member of staff for the post-match press conference. Matic will serve his one-match ban against Stoke City for his two yellow cards. Telegraph.co.uk