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Chelsea's managerial search continues

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Mihir Bose | 17:44 UK time, Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard and Sven-Goran Eriksson, all of whom have been much touted in the media as candidates to be the next Chelsea manager, are no longer major contenders for the job as far as the club's hierarchy is concerned.

But Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini and Felipe Scolari are among those being most actively looked at.

This follows a reappraisal by the powers-that-be at Stamford Bridge as to what they feel the new manager needs to do for the club.

The view is that Chelsea need to use the new appointment to make the club feel popular, if not loved, not merely by their own fans but by the public at large.

Avram Grant's sacking was decided by Roman Abramovich before the Champions League final had even kicked off, and what sealed his fate was the feeling that he could not take the club forward.

Winning the Champions League would have made no difference to that conclusion.

Grant's appointment came about last autumn when Jose Mourinho's relationship with Abramovich broke down irretrievably.

Grant, who was then Chelsea's director of football, was appointed because he was the only man sitting when the music stopped.

Abramovich's hope was that perhaps Grant could recreate the feeling of Mourinho's first year in charge, when Chelsea won their first league title for 50 years.

Then, their football surprised opponents and Chelsea were not only respected but also admired.

Mourinho, the self-proclaimed Special One, became a great favourite with the ladies and an ad-man's dream.

Abramovich could not have had any illusions that Grant would become that sort of figure, but felt he would at least help dilute the feelings of resentment the club seemed to generate in the latter stages of the Mourinho regime.

But in the eyes of Abramovich, Grant has delivered none of this.


Chelsea are trophyless for the first time since 2004 and under Grant, the antics of players like Didier Drogba are deemed to have diminished the club's reputation rather than enhanced it.

Indeed, while Grant's fate may have been decided before the final, the moment when Drogba lost it in Moscow and slapped Vidic - or as one Chelsea insider put it, tickled his cheek bone - was further illustration of how low the club had sunk.

The fact that players like Drogba make no secret of their desire to leave also did nothing to help Grant's position.

Curiously, there are some at Stamford Bridge who take consolation from events in Moscow.

They feel that Chelsea losing, and John Terry's very public tears afterwards, may help generate some public sympathy.

The club so lavishly funded by one of the richest men in the world is now in the curious position of desperately looking for sympathy and attention from the rest of the football world.

This is the backdrop against which the search for a new manager is continuing.

One club insider told me: "The appointment of the next manager is crucial.

"The manager will direct the club both on the field, where he needs to play attractive football, and off it.

"He will decide how the club is judged by supporters and perceived by the football world. We need to get this appointment right."

Abramovich thought he had got it right when he plucked Mourinho from Porto in 2004.

He is now hoping that the next time the man he anoints as leader will not only start as successfully as the Special One did, but that his regime will also avoid imploding in the way Mourinho's did last September.


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