Chelsea wasted no time kicking off their search for a new manager after sacking Carlo Ancelotti barely an hour after their final game of the season.
The Blues will start next term with their seventh manager in the last eight years, with Ancelotti given the boot in the wake of yesterday’s 1-0 Premier League defeat at Everton.
Guus Hiddink – who had a successful spell as caretaker manager two years ago - is reportedly the Russian’s number one target, with Porto’s Andre Villas-Boas also heavily touted.
But securing either of them will not be easy, with Turkey boss Hiddink reportedly reluctant to re-enter frontline club management and Villas-Boas tied down by a prohibitively high release clause.
That could open the door for a raft of other candidates, with whoever takes over faced with several crucial decisions.
The first will be how much surgery to perform on the club’s squad, which finished the season looking decidedly unbalanced.
Having spent £50m on Fernando Torres, it would appear the new manager must at least attempt to build the team around the Spaniard, who has proven something of a misfit since his January arrival.
Players capable of getting the best out of the striker would be the priority, with those surplus to requirements moved on.
Chelsea’s squad is also not getting any younger and securing long-term replacements for the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba is essential.
But any rebuilding must be completed against the backdrop of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s ruthless ambition, as Ancelotti discovered in the most brutal fashion last night.
The Italian was denied the meeting he was expecting with the club’s hierarchy next week and was instead given his marching orders by chief executive Ron Gourlay at Goodison Park.
Press Association Sport understands that was pre-planned, with the club keen to resolve any uncertainty about Ancelotti’s future before the players went on holiday next week.
The timing of Ancelotti’s sacking was the only real surprise, with the 51-year-old appearing a dead man walking at Stamford Bridge for several weeks.
Despite winning the club’s first ever double in his maiden season last year, he followed it up with their worst campaign of the Abramovich era.
The Russian had never before tolerated a manager failing to win at least one trophy in a given year and announcing Ancelotti’s departure on their official website, www.chelseafc.com, the club said in a statement: “Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti parted company with the club today.
“The owner and board would like to thank Carlo for his contribution and achievements since taking over as manager in July 2009, which included winning the double for the first time in the club’s history.
“However, this season’s performances have fallen short of expectations and the club feels the time is right to make this change ahead of next season’s preparations.
“Carlo will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge, where he will be given the reception and respect his position in our history deserves.
“Chelsea’s long-term football objectives and ambitions remain unchanged and we will now be concentrating all our efforts on identifying a new manager.
“There will be no further comment until that appointment is made.”
Ancelotti was given the boot immediately after completing his post-match media duties at Goodison Park.
That had seen him in good humour, saying: “I am now on holiday – but I am not sure how long my holiday will be!”