Chelsea will act quickly to appoint a new manager following the resignation of Thomas Tuchel, with the new owners hoping to appoint a longtime head coach to oversee a revolution at Stamford Bridge.
Current Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter tops their list and the Blues have already obtained permission from Brighton’s owners to speak to the manager.
Here’s why Chelsea are desperate for the Seagulls boss – and their other options if a deal falls through.
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Graham Potter, 47, has not yet fully penetrated the Premier League scene as a manager. Instead, he has enjoyed a 17-year streak up the coaching ladder, starting at the very bottom after a 13-year career in England’s middle class. He started out running university football programs in Hull and then worked as an assistant coach for the English universities and then Leeds Metropolitan University.
His first break as a manger saw him move to Sweden in 2011 to take charge of minnows Ostersund. He had the club promoted three times at breakneck speed at the fourth level and reached the top flight for the first time in their history. He didn’t stop there. Ostersund won the Svenska Cupen and Potter led the squad to the last 32 of the Europa League in 2018 – on a tight budget of less than £1 million – even beating Arsenal 2-1 in the Emirates along the way.
It was a breakthrough moment. Recently relegated Swansea City signed him in their bid to return to the Premier League. They would fail in that bid and finish 10th, but Potter had impressed in his first season in England, even giving Manchester City a major scare in the FA Cup.
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Brighton came calling – and in 2019 Potter was suddenly a Premier League coach. Since then, he has become one of the league’s rising leading stars, playing an attractive football brand, demonstrating tactical flexibility and innovation and achieving consistent results. Brighton finished 15th, 16th and then ninth last season – their best ever top flight result – while consistently selling their biggest stars and somehow managing to close the gaps comfortably. Meanwhile, he is renowned for the way he develops the culture of a club and unites the playgroup. A master’s degree in leadership and emotional intelligence may have something to do with that.
Equally important is his development of young talent – something he believes Chelsea have been lacking under Tuchel. Young guns Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori are sold. Billy Gilmour was sold to Potter’s Brighton, while Levi Colwill also went on loan to the south coast.
Potter’s time at Brighton has seen him track down and nurture underrated players into top talents, with Pascal Gross, Marc Cucurella and Yves Bissouma among those ranks.
It was only a matter of time before Potter got the call from a big six clubs – and Tottenham had been linked with a move before. His sensational start to the new campaign has only cemented his burgeoning reputation. Brighton are currently in an incredible fourth place in the league, after four wins and one draw in their first six games. That includes a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the opening weekend, and was recently concluded with a stunning 5-2 breakdown of Leicester despite conceding in the very first minute.
For Chelsea’s new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, led by co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali, Potter offers a modern manager who is both incredibly gifted and an impressive resume of overseeing long-term projects at clubs, providing both success on the pitch and a strong culture outside the park. He would also clearly deviate from former owner Roman Abramovich’s approach to contract coaches with many trophies on their resume – Champions League or domestic titles. After all, Potter’s best finish is ninth in the competition.
Chelsea would have to pay Brighton more than £12million to buy out his contract – in addition to paying Tuchel’s own contract at around £6.9million – but the club have reportedly given the Blues permission to haggle with Potter count with a meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon (local).
But with the two clubs making three player transfers in the recently closed window, the stage is set for Potter to follow.
The Telegraph reports the Blues: “Could even have a new man in place for Saturday’s Premier League game over lunch against Fulham.”
Chelsea’s shortlist also reportedly includes Zinedine Zidane, the legendary French player and manager. Zidane became the first manager to win three Champions League titles in a row while in charge of Real Madrid (2015-16 to 2017-18), but he was out of work after a second successful spell with the Spanish giants ended last year.
He has also been on the wish list of English clubs for a long time. Chelsea looked for Zidane to replace ex-manager Maurizio Sarri in February 2019, but he turned them down. Zidane also recently turned down an offer from Manchester United before signing Erik ten Hag.
One of his main reasons behind Manchester United’s rejection was that he is not fluent in English.
“The language, for example. Some circumstances make it more difficult. When I’m told, ‘Do you want to go to Manchester?’ I understand English, but I don’t quite master it,” he tells L’Equipe.
“I know there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language. But I work differently. To win, many elements come into play. It’s a global context. I know what I need to win. And I I want to put everything on my side to optimize the victory.”
Zidane is also reportedly hopeful that he can replace Dider Deschamps as manager of France’s national team – something very possible if Les Bleus disappoint at this year’s World Cup.
After being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain in July, Mauricio Pochettino remains one of football’s most talked-about managers readily available.
The Argentinian knows the English top club well and has played more than 300 games in Premier League dugouts for Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur.
It was at White Hart Lane where Pochettino enjoyed the most success in his managerial career, taking the Spurs within inches of a Premier League title in the 2016/17 season and a Champions League final in 2018/19.
He also played a vital role in shaping Harry Kane into the goalscoring machine he is today.
While he didn’t have the success he wanted at PSG, Pochettino gained even more experience by working with some serious stars on his squad, a quality league leader Graham Potter simply cannot boast of.
However, the Argentine has previously stated that he would rather “work on my farm in Argentina” than lead a rival to former clubs Spurs or Espanyol.
Of course Chelsea are not Tottenham’s direct rivals, but the icy handshake moment between Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte in the first game of the season showed that no love is lost between the two London outfits.
Pochettino to Chelsea makes sense, but is it the move Boehly wants? Time will tell.
ANGE POSTECOGLOU…TO BRIGHTON
Should Potter leave, and it will be that way, Brighton will be looking for a new manager.
The Seagulls have proven to be a savvy club when it comes to transfer transactions, taking every possible cent out of the buying club and replacing the departed stars with cheaper alternatives that are growing and thriving at the Amex.
And according to one betting market, the favorite for the job in Brighton is Ange Postecoglou.
Betfair has given the Aussie a competitive edge at $6.
Postecoglou has revolutionized since he made the move to Celtic in 2021 and led the Hoops to a league title and Scottish League Cup in his first season.
However, former Celtic star Chris Sutton believes a move south would be a “downgrade” for Postecoglou for Postecoglou, especially given that Celtic are on their way to the Champions League.
“Ange Postecoglou will be linked to management positions in the Premier League and I’m sure he will eventually move south, but he’s only just started at Celtic and he’s building something special,” Sutton wrote on Twitter.
“He certainly wouldn’t be relegated to a club the size of Brighton…why would he?”