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Hughes is in Chelsea’s sights

Chelsea’s initial discussions aimed at securing a permanent successor to José Mourinho have led them to consider the credentials of Mark Hughes as manager, along with those of more established targets such as Diego Simeone, Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri.

The champions will complete this season with Guus Hiddink in interim charge after Mourinho was sacked in December, just a few months into a four-year contract, with his team’s title defence in tatters. The Dutchman has helped extend the team’s unbeaten run to eight matches but was never viewed as a long-term appointment, leaving Chelsea exploring their options for the summer despite being unsure whether they would be able to offer Champions League football.

Although Simeone, whose intense style of management has drawn comparisons to that of Mourinho, has long been mooted as the preferred candidate, given that the anticipated unavailability of Pep Guardiola, prising the Argentinian away from Atlético Madrid could prove problematic. Simeone, a Europa League and La Liga winner with Atlético, is contracted to 2020 and the club hope their iconic manager will still be in charge to lead them into a new stadium next year, even if they fail to overturn a Fifa transfer embargo set to extend for two windows.

Hughes’s candidacy would constitute something of a surprise despite the relative success he has enjoyed with four clubs – Queens Park Rangers being the exception – over a nine-year spell in club management. The 52-year-old had excelled with Wales before that, and played a significant part in Manchester City’s development under Abu Dhabi United before being sacked in December 2009 and replaced by Roberto Mancini.

The former Chelsea player has overseen impressive progress at Stoke City in recent seasons, taking the club to the Capital One Cup semi-finals as well as implementing a transformation in the team’s style of play, and was rewarded with a contract extension to 2019 last March.

Hughes’s name had been discussed by Chelsea for a potential role as far back as 2007 when Mourinho’s first spell in charge was unravelling, though, with greater and more varied experience, his candidacy would arguably be stronger now despite the lack of silverware accrued on his coaching CV.

Allegri, who led Juventus to a domestic double and the Champions League final last season, is contracted until 2017. Conte guided that club to three consecutive Serie A titles this decade. He is overseeing the Italy national side but is expected to review his position after Euro 2016 and is thought to be attracted by the idea of coaching in England. – © Guardian News & Media

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