Dream, realistic, wildcard, Squawka suggests: who can replace Antonio Conte if Chelsea swing the axe?

Dream, realistic, wildcard, Squawka suggests: who can replace Antonio Conte if Chelsea swing the axe?

Antonio Conte’s future as Chelsea manager has been cast into more doubt as the Blues were humiliated 4-1 by Watford on Monday night.

The Italian had already reportedly been in hot water with Chelsea manager Roman Abramovich following their 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth the previous week, after voicing his displeasure with transfers.

But the Blues were expected to bounce back against a Watford side without a win since Boxing Day, before a poor all-round performance coupled with a fantastic Hornets’ display left Conte’s prospects of seeing out the last 18 months of his current contract hanging by a thread.

Following the defeat, Conte told press he was not worried about his future.

“It is very difficult for me to transfer my thoughts,” he told reporters.

“I hope tonight you understand me, I am not worried about my job. I work every day and give 100%. I am not worried. Every day and every press conference I am asked, but no.

“Tomorrow is another day. My soul is clear and I go to sleep without the problem that maybe I could do this. I try to do everything. If this problem becomes of the club it is okay. Life goes on.”

However, betting on Conte to be sacked has been suspended, and should Abramovich pull the trigger, who would be best to take over?

Dream: Luis Enrique

The bookmakers’ favourite to replace Conte, Luis Enrique would not be the worst option for Chelsea.

A step above other linked managers, such as Brendan Rodgers, the Spaniard has been a free agent since leaving Barcelona at the end of last season.

During his three seasons at the Blaugrana Enrique won two La Liga titles and a Champions League, which capped off a treble, as well as three Copa del Reys.

Used to managing big names and big personalities, having dealt with the likes of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar, Enrique would do well to calm the Chelsea dressing room.

One of the many problems previous managers have stated while at the club has been its player power, and while the old guard have all moved on some of the attitudes have remained.

With Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois seemingly holding the club to ransom over new contracts, bringing Enrique in would show intent from the board to put Chelsea back at the top of European football.

Were the Spaniard to promise an attacking style of play, made famous by Barcelona, Hazard’s eye might be diverted from Real Madrid with the team built around him.

Enrique is believed to be admired by Chelsea’s board and any deal for the Spaniard would not bring the club any additional fees as he has no ties to any club.

Realistic: Carlo Ancelotti

While the dream for many a Chelsea fan may be for Conte to stay with the club to try and get the team performing again, another Italian manager could prove to be a welcome return at Stamford Bridge.

For Carlo Ancelotti there is an air of unfinished business with Chelsea having won a Premier League and FA Cup double before being sacked the following season – for finishing second.

Since the Italian left Chelsea, he has tasted domestic glory with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, as well as a Champions League – La Decima – with Real Madrid.

Though his last spell with Bayern ended on a sour note as players grew unhappy with him, Ancelotti is still held in high regard by Chelsea fans.

The Italian had recently dismissed the notion of taking over as Italy boss, citing his desire to return to club management.

“My answer is this: the FIGC (Italian FA), with the help of CONI, has to create its new structure,” Ancelotti told Corriere dello Sport.

“After that they’ll take the decision. I remain with my idea, first you need clarity, then we can talk about it, even if my goal is to coach a club team.

“Which one? I still don’t know, it’s all on the high seas, we’ll need to wait a couple of months. The Champions League is back now, and as long as the rules haven’t changed there’s only one team that can win it.

“What will the others do?”

And given some of the other managers Chelsea have been linked too, Ancelotti may be the best option.

Wildcard: Jody Morris

The wildest of wildcard shouts, perhaps, but hear us out.

Given Chelsea’s apparent objection to promoting youth players into the first team, the chance of putting the academy coach in charge are slim-to-none. But the former Chelsea midfielder has worked wonders for the club’s academy, building it into one of, if not the, best in the country.

Starting his playing career as a product of the Chelsea youth academy and played for the first team for seven years.

Morris still holds the record as the club’s youngest ever Premier League player when he made his debut against Middlesbrough on 4 February 1996, at the age of 17 years and 43 days.

However, for one reason or another the Englishman failed to truly reach his potential before having spells with Millwall and Leeds United among other clubs.

In 2013 Morris returned to Chelsea to work with the academy, playing a huge part in the development of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown and Tammy Abraham.

Since Morris became a part of the set-up, the academy have won four successive FA Youth Cups, which even led the Englishman to be linked with a move to manage Bundesliga side RB Leipzig – according to the Sun.

But with Conte’s future looking doubtful, why not give Morris the reins? Even if it is until the end of the season.

Roberto Di Matteo’s promotion from assistant coach in 2011 presents not only a precedent for internal hiring at Stamford Bridge, but a successful one as the former Blues midfielder guided them to their first Champions League win, also the first – and so far only – of any London-based club. Real Madrid saw considerable success when they made former Real Madrid Castilla manager Zinedine Zidane Rafael Benitez’s replacement in 2016. Two back-to-back Champions League trophies later and the Frenchman’s future may be in doubt, but the initial success was there.

No one could expect a similar level of achievement, but given Morris’ experience with the youth, he could bring a new, much-craved among Chelsea fans, dawn at Stamford Bridge with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount breaking through.

Squawka suggests: Guus Hiddink/Massimiliano Allegri

Unlike the three other options, Massimiliano Allegri would come at a cost with Chelsea having to pay compensation fee for the chance of bringing the Italian to Stamford Bridge.

But having a similar set of ideas to Conte, it would not be the worst idea.

Conte’s replacement at Juventus when the Italian resigned in 2014, Allegri has done well with the Bianconeri to continue the success of his predecessor and even improved their recent record in Europe.

In the three-and-a-half years since Allegri took over as Juventus manager the Serie A club had won three consecutive league titles and reached two Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017 – though they lost both to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

One of the main problems for Conte this season has been his insistence to keep the same rigorous training sessions as last season, despite Chelsea participating in the Champions League, and going further in the Carabao Cup.

This has conceivably left Chelsea’s squad with a greater number of injury problems than last season and the lack of depth has seen some players go without rest for months at a time.

But Allegri has been praised in the past for his ability to build upon Conte’s work with Juventus, without pushing the side too much.

The Italian has also shown more flexibility than Conte has this season, often switching to a four-man defence when a game may dictate it – not as a last-ditch option, but as a starting tactic.

Allegri also managed to get the best out of Alvaro Morata in his short spell with Juventus, something Conte has struggled with this season.

However, the Italian may not be willing to leave Juventus mid-season as the Serie A title is not a formality for the Bianconeri with Napoli top by one point.

Once again Guus Hiddink might be brought in to steady the ship, as he has done on two occasions (one with much success) until the end of the season before Allegri takes over.