The route back into management should open up for Jose Mourinho today with Internazionale expected to part company with coach Roberto Mancini. The former Chelsea manager is the firm favourite to replace Mancini at San Siro and once installed at the Italian champions will make Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba his main transfer targets.
Despite winning three successive scudetti, the departure of Mancini has been widely touted and his agent Giorgio de Giorgis emerged from a meeting with the Inter president, Massimo Moratti, yesterday to say: "Is it finished? More or less, it seems to be, but I don't have any confirmation." De Giorgis added later: "Roberto never expected it to end like this. Certainly he is shocked and has taken it badly. Now Mourinho will arrive."
If Mourinho is appointed at Inter, that would remove the mooted possibility of him returning to Chelsea less than a year after his departure. However, Mancini's availability is sure to stimulate further speculation about the 43-year-old Italian replacing Avram Grant at Stamford Bridge.
Another figure under consideration is Roy Keane, though Sunderland last night said that they have received no contact from Chelsea regarding their manager. But one name will soon have to be crossed off any Chelsea wishlist, with Sven Goran Eriksson poised to be unveiled as Mexico's new manager on Monday, according to the head of the country's governing body. "We've sorted out the details with Eriksson and we are about to confirm him," said the Mexican Football Federation president, Justino Compean.
Mancini, who knows English football from a brief spell at Leicester City in 2001, was immediately mentioned as a contender for the Chelsea job when Grant's departure was confirmed on Saturday. Having managed Lazio, and Fiorentina before that, Mancini was appointed at Inter in 2004 and won the scudetto in his second season. He repeated that feat twice, but success in Europe was not forthcoming and Mourinho has been linked with a move to the club for months.
Earlier this year Mancini stated he would leave this month, but then reconsidered after discussions with Inter's hierarchy. His potential availability will ensure he remains one of the favourites to succeed Grant, along with Frank Rijkaard, Guus Hiddink and Mark Hughes.
A less anticipated name in the frame is that of Keane but it is understood that the 36-year-old has made at least one shortlist circulating Stamford Bridge.
"I'm not overly surprised that Roy has been linked," the Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, said of the Chelsea rumour. "But rather than fret about it, I'd take it as a positive that we must be doing something right as a football club. Roy is still under contract at Sunderland for next season and I'm pretty happy at this stage that he'll be with us for a long time to come."
With both Keane and Sunderland having stalled – amicably – on agreeing a new deal until Premier League safety was assured, the Irishman is now into the last year of a three-season contract at the Stadium of Light.
Once Keane and Quinn are content with the economic position this summer, Keane will be expected to sign a new contract.
Someone staying at Stamford Bridge is Henk ten Cate, Grant's assistant, who was thought to be leaving. "Half an hour before Chelsea made the message about Grant officially known, I was called by the chief executive, Peter Kenyon," Ten Cate said yesterday. "He informed me that the departure of Grant will not affect me. I have a contract until 2010."