It was the sacking that rang around the world as Jose Mourinho’s tumultuous second stint in charge of Chelsea was brought to an end, barely six months after winning the Premier League title.
The London club has already lined up Guus Hiddink as a caretaker manager until the end of the season. However, one man owner Roman Abramovich has reportedly identified Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone as the club’s next long-term manager.
While not yet the favorite to take charge at Stamford Bridge next season, Simeone is the most intriguing possibility among the names currently being floated. And probably the one that would get Chelsea fans most excited.
Pep Guardiola’s name has also been touted, but the Catalan who is expected to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season has poured cold water over the idea that he’d follow in his archrival Mourinho’s footsteps.
Bringing back Carlo Ancelotti is another option, but if Chelsea really wants to do something exciting that will move the club forward, Simeone seems the best choice. The Argentine’s trophy haul in four years at Atleti has been sensational: one Europa League title, one UEFA Super Cup, La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Supercopa de Espana.
Simeone’s team also came within 90 seconds of winning the Champions League. All of this was done on a fraction of the budget of La Liga’s two superpowers, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Simeone is a master motivator who has that priceless managerial gift for turning the sum of his team into something that’s somehow greater than its individual parts. He was also the manager who transformed Diego Costa into a world-class striker. The manager’s close relationship with the Brazilian-born finisher is another reason for Chelsea to be keen on him, as it will spare them the expense of having to splash the cash for another top-tier striker.
The Atleti manager also has a similar, hard-driving, defensively rigid style to that of Mourinho, which would make for continuity in transitioning from one managerial regime to another.
Barring a sudden about-face from Guardiola, there is simply no better candidate for the Chelsea job than Simeone. Signing him may not be that easy, however.
Atletico are currently joint-top in the La Liga standings and remain among the favorites in this season’s Champions League. The 45-year-old manager is an Atleti man through and through, and recently extended his contract to the club until 2020.
But the bright lights and big paychecks of the Premier League can be mightily tempting. Simeone has already done enough to leave a legacy at Atletico. If he can be tempted away from the club where he made his name as a player and a manager, the challenge of a new team in a new league might just appeal to him.