Next Chelsea manager: Jorge Sampaoli emerges as contender as Diego Simeone interest cools

Roman Abramovich, the Blues owner, is leading an intensive search for Jose Mourinho’s long-term replacement

Former Chile head coach Jorge Sampaoli has emerged as a genuine contender to become the new Chelsea manager, according to reports.

Roman Abramovich, the Blues owner, is leading an intensive search for Jose Mourinho’s long-term replacement as Guus Hiddink continues to lead the side on an interim basis until the end of the campaign.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone was initially thought to be the front-runner for the Stamford Bridge post while Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is highly thought of in the capital also. 

The Daily Telegraph, however, suggest Sampaoli has climbed to the top of Abramovich’s short-list in recent weeks. 

The 55-year-old won the Copa America with Chile last year before being nominated alongside Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola and Barcelona manager Luis Enrique for world coach of the year. 

Sampaoli is reported to be keen to manage in England and Chelsea remains one of the most attractive jobs in European football despite their slump in fortunes in the Premier League this season. The final decision is likely to be made by Abramovich, technical director Michael Emenalo and director Marina Granovskaia. 

It has also been suggested the Russian billionaire is seeking the advice of former Chelsea manager Avram Grant. 

Meanwhile John Obi Mikel, who scored in the 2-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg meeting at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, says Hiddink has changed the mood at the club.

“Guus has come in again and settled things,” Mikel said. “Players feels free to play and free to have responsibility and thrive on responsibility, but do it in a very relaxed way

“That is sometimes what players need. Guus has come in and done that. We’re picking up results in the league and we’re still very much in this Champions League tie.

“We’ve been through a difficult period, no doubt about it, but Guus has come in and settled the ship.”

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