Mourinho exit down to 'discord' – but Chelsea have a plan
Guus Hiddink remains favourite to take over, as details of the club's reasons for firing Mourinho begin to emerge
Speculation continues as to who will succeed Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge after the 52-year-old's shock sacking on Thursday afternoon, with Guus Hiddink the overwhelming favourite to return to Stamford Bridge for his second spell as interim manager.
Rumours of Hiddink's appointment began almost immediately after news of Mourinho's demise broke, with Croatian newspaper Index quoting former Chelsea player Mateja Kezman as saying that he had spoken to the Dutchman, who had confirmed to him that he would take the job.
"I do not know if it is officially confirmed," he said, "whether the club has announced it, but Guus told me earlier. I am convinced that with him Chelsea will recover. I would even say they are one of the favourites for the Champions League."
Chelsea's technical director Michael Emenalo admitted that the club had a plan in place for Mourinho's departure before the final decision to axe him was made, in an interview with the club's website. "You are not a big club if you don’t have big plans for situations like this," he claimed.
Emenalo also admitted that there was "palpable discord between manager and players," but insisted that the players weren't the ones responsible for getting Mourinho sacked. "It's very easy to make that inference but it is not one the club accepts."
One of Mourinho's most prominent underperforming players, Cesc Fabregas, took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to his former boss, tweeting: "Thank you for all you have done for me. I owe you a lot and we will all miss you. Good luck in the future."
But not everyone will miss him, says Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph. He claims that Mourinho spent his final days at Chelsea continuing to accuse his players of "betraying" him, both in public and in private.
"The Portuguese… warned his team against 'betrayal' in the tactical meeting ahead of the Leicester game and used the word again during the half-time team talk at the King Power Stadium," he reports.
Chelsea sack Jose Mourinho: Guus Hiddink tipped to take over
Chelsea have fired manager Jose Mourinho seven months after he guided the club to the Premier League title.
The Portuguese was dismissed today, three days after a defeat to Leicester that left the Blues languishing in 16th place in the table with nine defeats from 16 games. Until this campaign Mourinho had never lost more than six league games in an entire season.
News of his sacking has come as a shock. Reports this morning suggested that although he was under pressure, the Portuguese had "weathered the storm" following Monday's defeat and was not in immediate danger, but Chelsea confirmed that Mourinho was leaving the club "by mutual consent" shortly after 3pm.
It was Mourinhio's second spell in charge of the west London club, having previously led them from 2004 to 2007. He returned in 2013 promising a long reign and his side cruised to the league title last season, and Mourinho signed a four-year contract extension over the summer.
But this term he has presided over one of the most spectacular falls from grace in Premier League history as Chelsea have gone from bad to worse in defence of their title. The so-called Special One appeared to have lost control of the club and after the game on Monday night he accused his players of "betraying" him.
Although he retained the support of the fans, the signs that all was not well at Stamford Bridge began to emerge on the first week of the season when Mourinho got involved in a huge row with his medical staff on the touchline. That episode led to the depature of club doctor Evan Careniro, and was followed up by an FA charge over comments he made about referees and a one-match stadium ban after Mourinho clashed with officials after a game against West Ham.
"The league title and the Capital One Cup last season promised a second coming that was to be more permanent, less volatile, but in fact the decline this time has been ten times more spectacular than when Mourinho left first time," says Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph.
Chelsea are now expected to install a caretaker manager for the rest of the season, with former boss Guus Hiddink tipped to take over. He took over when Luis Felipe Scolari was sacked in 2009 and led Chelsea to the FA Cup that season.
"The Blues may be struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League table, but they are still in the Champions League and both domestic cups, while achieving European qualification is not impossible," says the BBC. "The key for any new manager is improving the morale of a talented squad that has underachieved this season."
Chelsea crisis: few options to replace 'betrayed' Mourinho
Jose Mourinho's future at Chelsea remains in grave doubt amid reports that the club's top brass have been drawing up contingency plans should the Portuguese manager lose his job.
Claims that an emergency board meeting was called to determine his future are wide of the mark and Mourinho appears to have weathered the storm caused by defeat to Leicester on Monday. However, with the Blues only one point above the relegation zone, "serious consideration is being given as to what Chelsea would do in the event of a mid-season change", says the Daily Telegraph.
The crisis has reached such proportions that there is now a serious debate over who should replace Mourinho if the board is forced to act, explains Jason Burt of the Telegraph.
"Up to 20 names have been discussed, which shows how far Chelsea are casting their net but clearly, there are no outstanding candidates out there," he writes. On Wednesday The Times even suggested that former Spurs boss Juande Ramos was in the frame to take over if Mourinho was jettisoned.
In addition to the lack of possible short term replacements, Chelsea must contend with another unpalatable truth, says Burt of the Telegraph. "If Mourinho goes now he is lost to Chelsea forever. There can be no third spell at Stamford Bridge."
That raises the question of who is more valuable to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich: Mourinho or the current crop of players who have been accused of undermining the most successful manager in the club's history?
Mourinho, 52, clearly feels aggrieved. After Monday's defeat to Leicester City he let rip when he told reporters that his "work was betrayed" by some of his players.
"The Chelsea manager deliberately used the word 'betrayal' in three post-match interviews to convey his feeling of being undermined from within his dressing room," says the Times. The paper claims Mourinho fears there is a mole in the camp after he discovered his team and tactics had been leaked to Porto before their Champions League encounter last week.
His choice of words was "extraordinarily strong" said BBC pundit Pat Nevin this week. He said he believed the comments had been aimed at specific players. "Who let him down deliberately? Because that is what betrayal means," he asked.
Former England international Joey Barton said that if Nevin was right, and Mourinho was accusing specific players of betrayal, there was "no way back" for him at the club.
But Nevin does not agree. He claimed that the hubbub around the manager's position would "ebb away" with time and that Chelsea wouldn't see any changes this winter. "I don't see it happening," he said. "I've been outside Stamford Bridge seven or eight times after games this season and the mood today is no different. I would agree the manager's future has been in doubt for months, but that doesn't mean he will go."
Taxi for Mourinho: is it too late to avoid Chelsea sack?
Jose Mourinho went on the offensive after Chelsea's ninth defeat in 16 league games as they lost to Leicester last night, turning his ire on his players and accusing them of "betraying" him as he made an impassioned defence of his own methods, insisting he had prepared his team for the game only for them to let him down.
But will this new tactic work or simply divide what is a broken dressing room still further?
Few would argue that he was incorrect in his assessment. He simply cannot be wrong, argues Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph. "No team can win the Premier League in May and then lose nine of their 16 games in the next campaign without a dereliction of duty by the players," he says.
His outburst reclaimed some of his authority and will turn the heat on the players. But by insisting that he had done his homework and given his team comprehensive instructions on how to beat Leicester he is admitting that his players "were unwilling or unable to act on their manager's briefings".
The question now is why, says Hayward. "Trust is breaking down... Why have they 'betrayed' him? Could it be that they just don't like him?"
Chelsea, and that includes Mourinho, look "diminished" this season says Oliver Kay in The Times. The Portguese manager's decisions and his behaviour have been "erratic and inconsistent" since the summer.
His attempts to get his team to click have "gone from stick to carrot and back again with little sign of an improvement", writes Kay. "You can feel for any manager who is being let down by underperformance, but at no point this season has it looked as if Mourinho knows what the solution is."
Chelsea must move on, which means changes in personnel and Mourinho has made a clear plea not to be the one left behind. And the Chelsea hierarchy should listen, says Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror.
"Abramovich should stick with Mourinho," he says. "To axe him for an Ancelotti would be to row back on the policy of stability that the Russian wanted to go with at Stamford Bridge.
"Mourinho has been vilified on social media for claiming that he is the one to have lifted the Blues players to the heights that they reached last season. Yet his CV proves that that is indeed exactly what he does.
"If Mourinho is the man to blame for the club's appalling first five months of this season then why should he not take the credit for the heights to which he lifted them last time around?"
But it's too late, says Matt Law in the Telegraph. "It is a matter of when and not if Mourinho will be sacked," he argues. "Using the word betrayal may well further alienate some of his players, but it seems Mourinho and his squad have already passed the point of no return."