Ranieri and Hughes in the frame for Chelsea manager's job
Old boys join Eddie Howe on shortlist if Blues cannot lure European elite to Stamford Bridge
Claudio Ranieri and Mark Hughes could be in line for a shock return to Chelsea as the club widens its search for a new manager.
The Blues have been linked to some of Europe's biggest names, including Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone, but it appears they could consider a less-celebrated manager from one of their Premier League rivals "if they cannot land a stellar name this summer", says the Daily Telegraph.
"With Chelsea facing the very real prospect of missing out on Champions League qualification and possibly even finishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, the club's hierarchy are having to contemplate more achievable alternatives," says the paper.
Ranieri, the "Tinkerman", who was ousted by Roman Abramovic in 2004 to make room for Jose Mourinho, has done his reputation no harm by guiding Leicester to the top of the table this season, while former Chelsea player Hughes has transformed Stoke from Premier League cloggers into a well-oiled footballing unit boasting high-profile talents capable of playing stylish football.
"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", says The Guardian. Nine years on, he has "greater and more varied experience", adds the paper and his "candidacy would arguably be stronger now despite the lack of silverware accrued on his coaching CV".
Also in the frame is Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, who has won "admirers within the corridors of power at Chelsea's Cobham training base", according to the Telegraph. Chelsea have not had an English manager since Glenn Hoddle left in 1996.
Italy manager Antonio Conte and Atletico Madrid boss Simeone remain the preferred candidates, says the Independent, which also names Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino as a possibility, although Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is unlikely to countenance such a move.