AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti today emerged as the main contender for the Chelsea job at the end of the season.
The Italian appears to be owner Roman Abramovich’s choice to replace Luiz Felipe Scolari on a full-time basis.
Scolari was sacked at the club’s Cobham training ground by Abramovich yesterday after Chelsea slipped to fourth place in the Barclays Premier League.
But the Blues are unlikely to get their man until the end of the season when Ancelotti may make way at Milan for another Chelsea contender – Frank Rijkaard.
Rijkaard would be interested in taking the Chelsea job but not on a caretaker basis and the Blues are now concentrating on finding somebody willing to keep the seat warm until they can get the right man.
Rijkaard has been out of management since leaving Barcelona last summer and has since been linked to the Chelsea job following the sacking of Scolari.
His agent Perry Overeem told Sky Sports News: “(Frank) is obviously a big fan of the game and a big fan of the Premier League so he can be interested in working in the Premier League.
“He would consider every serious job offer from one of the major teams in Europe and obviously Chelsea and the Premier League is one of those.
“It all depends on the plans (Chelsea have). It would be a fairly long-term plan, not just for one or one-and-a-half seasons.”
Rijkaard’s interest in a long-term appointment has opened up the possibility for a return to Stamford Bridge for 53-year-old Israeli Avram Grant.
However, Grant, who steered the team to the final of the Champions League and pushed Manchester United all the way in the Barclays Premier last season, was then fired to make way for Scolari.
Grant is a close friend of Abramovich but his appointment, however temporary, would not go down well with the players or the majority of the fans.
Russia boss Guus Hiddink is thought to be the other main contender but he is unlikely to be interested in taking on the job unless it is on a long-term contract.
His agent expects his client will speak to Abramovich and listen to what he has to say.
Hiddink has been linked with the Chelsea job in the past and already has a relationship with the Blues’ billionaire owner Abramovich through his role as Russia coach.
However, the Dutchman remains “focused” on the task of leading Russia to the 2010 World Cup according to his representative Cees van Nieuwenhuizen.
“I think because of the personal relationship he has with Mr Abramovich he will definitely talk to him and listen to him but I think Mr Abramovich realises he also has not finished his job (with Russia),” the agent told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.
“I think that Guus and Mr Abramovich know each other well enough – he’s not going to say he is not going to talk to (Abramovich) and he is not going to listen.
“He is focused on his job with Russia, he is with the team on a training camp in Turkey and he is looking forward to qualifying with Russia for the World Cup.”
The president of the Russian Football Association, Vitaly Mutko, added: “Guus Hiddink has a valid contract that expires in 2010 and I have no doubt that he will see it through.”
Chelsea have made it clear they want to make a quick appointment and that could arrive within the next 24 hours.
Former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini is another outsider. He is currently out of work and was touted as a possible successor to Grant last summer.
Chelsea could even decide to hand Ray Wilkins the job until the summer with Grant arriving as director of football.