SANTIAGO • Jorge Sampaoli yesterday emerged as the bookmakers' favourite to become the next Chelsea manager, after he quit as coach of Chile just six months after winning the Copa America.
Confirmation the Argentinian had stood down as boss of La Roja came on Tuesday - five days after the Chile football federation announced that talks over his future had broken down.
Sampaoli leaves after a week of acrimony in which he claimed the federation was holding him hostage over a US$6 million (S$8.7 million) buyout clause in his contract which still had two years to run.
He had also been angered by local media reports linking him to tax evasion and holding an offshore bank account.
The federation confirmed his departure in a statement.
"A deal has been reached between the national professional football association and Jorge Sampaoli to bring to an end their contractual relationship," it said.
Contenders to succeed him include his compatriot Marcelo Bielsa. Jobless since walking out on Marseille at the start of the Ligue 1 season, he could return to the post he held between 2007 and 2010.
Another name reportedly in the frame is Eduardo Berizzo, the manager of Celta Vigo in Spain's La Liga.
Aside from qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Chile are also preparing to defend their title at the Copa Centenario in the United States later this year.
Under Sampaoli, Chile won the Copa America for the first time in their history last July.
Chile's golden generation, which includes Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal and Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, lifted the trophy after defeating Argentina in a penalty shoot-out in the final on home soil.
The result raised the stock of Sampaoli, one of the nominees for the Fifa Coach of the Year award that was won by Barcelona's Luis Enrique earlier this month.
Chelsea are reportedly monitoring the 55-year-old's situation as the reigning Premier League champions seek to appoint a new manager in the summer.
Blues interim manager Guus Hiddink has been in charge at Stamford Bridge since Jose Mourinho was sacked last month.
Chelsea's shortlist for a long-term replacement for the Portuguese includes Bayern manager Pep Guardiola and Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone.
Yet the Blues, 14 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, may not be able to convince either manager to join a club that is unlikely to feature in next season's Champions League.
Guardiola has expressed his interest in managing in England's top flight after leaving the German champions at the end of the season, but Manchester City are favourites to land the Spaniard.
The Argentinian Simeone is contracted to Atletico until 2020.