LONDON • Chelsea have identified Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino as one of their four preferred candidates to succeed Guus Hiddink when the Dutchman's spell as interim manager ends at the end of this season.
Pochettino's impressive campaign, turning a young Spurs side into contenders not only for a Champions League place but also for the Premier League title, has convinced Chelsea that he could be the ideal long-term replacement for Jose Mourinho.
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone; Jorge Sampaoli, who resigned from his post with Chile this month; and Didier Deschamps, who will lead France into Euro 2016 this summer, are also under consideration .
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has not given up hope of persuading Pep Guardiola, who has advertised his desire to work in England, to resist Manchester United and Manchester City and move to London.
The Russian made overtures to the Spaniard in 2012 - when the job went to Andre Villas-Boas - and in 2013, but was rebuffed twice.
Prime among the alternatives is Pochettino.
The 43-year-old, midway through his second season at White Hart Lane after moving from Southampton, fulfils two important criteria, thanks to the adventurous style of his Spurs side and his faith in youth.
Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier have risen to prominence under his guidance, as Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw did at Southampton.
Chelsea are determined to see a return on their investment in their academy and the Argentinian's track record suggests that he could deliver it.
The prospect of a deal, however, remains distant. When Chelsea last took a senior member of staff from their rivals, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy coaxed £5 million (S$10.2 million) in compensation in exchange for Frank Arnesen, their sporting director.
Given that Pochettino is contracted to Tottenham until 2019, negotiations could be fraught.
That means Simeone, who led Atletico to one of the most improbable league titles of recent times in 2014, remains the most likely appointment.
THE TIMES, LONDON