Next Chelsea Manager—As Antonio Conte Heads for the Door, Who Are the Contenders to Replace Him?

Chelsea's season very much lies in the balance. They remain in the FA Cup but are out the League Cup, they face Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League but they're sliding out of the Premier League's top four.

There is still time for Chelsea's season to be salvaged. But around Stamford Bridge, few expect Antonio Conte to stick around for the aftermath. This is a feeling shared by club, manager, players and fans; the only seeming inevitability of their season is that it ends with a farewell.

In the dark moments of defeat, Conte has suggested he is in the firing line. Last week, he compared himself to those who have gone before him at Stamford Bridge, delivering success and then fired when it is not sustained.

"If you look at the stats you can see that in 14 years 10 managers were sacked at this club," Conte said. "I saw the history of this club. It was the same for the other coaches and I don't see difference between them and me. Other coaches managed this situation. If I remember, at the start of the season I said maybe this will be the most difficult season for me."

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte at the Amex Stadium, Brighton, England, January 20. Conte is expected to leave Chelsea at the end of the season. Mike Hewitt/Getty

Some reports have suggested that Conte will be offered the opportunity to return to the Italian national team, the job he held before taking charge at Chelsea in the summer of 2016. So, if the inevitable does occur, who is in line to take the reins at Stamford Bridge? Here, Newsweek takes a look at the potential candidates for the job:

Luis Enrique

The former Barcelona coach appears to be top of Abramovich's list of candidates, and is an attractive prospect. Enrique has been out of work since he decided to step down at the Camp Nou last summer, following three years and nine trophies. He won La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey three times and led Barcelona to the treble in 2015 by beating Juventus in the final of the Champions League. The only question mark over Enrique is how much of the success is truly down to him, having inherited a team very much built by Pep Guardiola. A recent quote by former Barcelona defender Dani Alves, discussing Neymar Jr.'s move to Paris Saint-Germain, gave an insight into the club. "Playing with someone as unique as Leo is the most incredible thing that can happen to you, but there's always that doubt in your mind if it's you that really has the quality or if it's him," Alves said. Chelsea will hope it's the former when it comes to coaches.

Diego Simeone

Every time the manager's seat at Stamford Bridge is vacated, Diego Simeone is linked with it. Simeone fits the mould of a Chelsea manager, with a similar style to that of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Simeone is an overachiever. He has delivered the unthinkable in Spain by muscling in on the La Liga elite, becoming the first manager outside Real Madrid and Barcelona to win La Liga since Rafa Benitez did so with Valencia in 2004. He has won the Copa del Rey and led Atletico to two Champions League finals, seeing him named La Liga Coach of the Year on three separate seasons. He has been at the club for six seasons now and Chelsea will hope to prise him away. But Simeone will be aware of the demands at Stamford Bridge and the lack of control the head coach has.

Thomas Tuchel

Another manager available immediately, Tuchel left Borussia Dortmund last summer after two years in charge. Chelsea are believed to have shown interest in the German, with some reports suggesting he even met with the club's director Marina Granovskaia when they were considering replacing Conte earlier this season. The problem for Tuchel, however, may be that he doesn't have the proven track record of the managers Chelsea tend to employ. Each and every coach picked by Abramovich has had a C.V. boasting a league title, World Cup or Champions League victory. Tuchel only has the German cup. In an echo of Enrique, Tuchel inherited a squad of players at Dortmund that had been brought together and moulded by Jurgen Klopp for seven years.