It promises to be a busy few weeks and months at Stamford Bridge. While Guus Hiddink is now settling into the manager’s chair at Chelsea following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal last week, the pursuit of a long-term replacement beyond next summer goes on.
With Hiddink only appointed until the end of the season, Chelsea are thought to be pursuing Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone and Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola to take the job from next season, Both, though, have complications.
Simeone has enjoyed phenomenal success since taking over at Atlético in 2011, and has a close connection to the club having won the league title with them as a player. He also signed a new five-year contract with the Spanish club in May. According to The Telegraph, it will take a lot to prize the Argentine away from the Vicente Calderon, including having the final say over all transfers. Such an agreement would mean Chelsea doing away with a structure that currently sees technical director Michael Emenalo ultimately call the shots.
And although Guardiola is set to be free in the summer, with his departure from Bayern Munich recently being announced, Chelsea face an uphill battle to lure the Catalan to Stamford Bridge. The two-time Champions League winner is widely believed to have all-but agreed to join Manchester City, and he has rejected Chelsea multiple times in the past.
If Chelsea fail with both of those targets, then it appears they will turn to Italy. Massimiliano Allegri, who led Juventus to the Champions League title last season, has been suggested as a candidate, as has the man he replaced in Turin, Antonio Conte. The 46-year-old is now in charge of Italy, but his contract is set to expire after Euro 2016.
For the time being, while Hiddink takes control of the team, Emenalo is set to plan how to improve the squad in the January transfer window. Speaking ahead of his first match in charge, against Watford on Saturday, Hiddink didn’t rule out he club making signings next month.
“The future has to be determined by whoever is in charge,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “Let's go into the next few games and we'll see. I know it is always open but I'd like to end that a bit now, get into the games and then we'll see what happens.”
Given that Chelsea have scored just 21 goals in 17 Premier League games, the area of the squad most in need of strengthening is up front. And it is no surprise therefore that Chelsea are being keenly linked with the man who currently leads the Premier League scoring charts. Jamie Vardy has risen from near-obscurity to score 15 Premier League goals for table-topping Leicester City so far this season.
Although Manchester City are also thought to be interested, The Telegraph reports that Chelsea are the club most likely to test Leicester’s resolve to hold onto the striker. However, his reported £30 million valuation would be an extraordinary fee for Chelsea to pay for a soon-to-be 29-year-old who has only scored regularly at the top level for six months.
A striker with far greater pedigree has also been linked with Chelsea. Karim Benzema has been one of the world’s premier forwards for some time, but he is currently under investigation over an alleged blackmail on international teammate Mathieu Valbuena, leading to his suspension from the France team. And, according to the Daily Mirror, Benzema has been upset by a perceived lack of support from Real Madrid -- a situation Chelsea are said to be keeping a close eye on. It appears very unlikely, though, that he will be moving on in mid-season.
Perhaps the most likely arrival is Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira. The Brazilian has scored an impressive 22 goals in 15 Ukrainian league games and a further four in the Champions League. And now multiple British tabloids are reporting that Chelsea have agreed in principle to a £30-million deal for the 25-year-old.