It was virtually impossible to imagine Antonio Conte fighting for his job at Chelsea around six months ago.
But at Stamford Bridge, a Premier League title counts for little if the following season is riddled with poor form, humiliating defeats and politics supposedly bubbling away behind the scenes.
Despite the turmoil, Conte remains on track to secure what’s now the bare minimum expected of Chelsea these days – a top four finish.
With this in mind, one has to feel for the Italian given the significance of whatever he achieves this season will pale in comparison to that of his relationship with Roman Abramovich.
The reported friction between the two men means the 48-year-old is arguably more likely to face the axe than keep his job come May.
Should Conte be shown the door, former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is thought to be the most likely candidate to take over in west London.
Following three trophy-laden seasons at the Nou Camp, the Spaniard is currently unemployed and understood to be intrigued by the prospect of returning to the touchline at Chelsea.
While few Blues supporters would be happy to see Conte go, Enrique has received the backing of two senior Barcelona players as an adequate successor.
Andres Iniesta – who played alongside his compatriot as well as under him as a manager – has no doubts over his potential to do well at the Bridge.
“Luis Enrique is an excellent coach,” he said, per the Mirror.
“In Barcelona, he showed the incredible level he has reached and I think he could win trophies at any club – and that includes Chelsea. It won’t be easy because Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“But when you see what Enrique developed in Barcelona, then I think it is also possible in London. The Premier League is a tough competition but, for me, he is capable of managing any big English club.”
JORDI ALBA CHIMES IN
Jordi Alba has also weighed in, claiming Enrique could hit the ground running before the end of this season or the start of the next, with or without an abundance of new signings.
“For me, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Luis Enrique took over at Chelsea, because he has the right experience and quality for this kind of club,” the fullback said.
“Chelsea is a bit like Barcelona – a club where you are always obliged to be a champion. But that kind of pressure doesn’t damage the work of someone like Luis Enrique. He is used to it.
“He has proved himself already.
“The Premier League is different to La Liga, but I don’t think that will be a problem for Enrique. I think he would do well.”
Conte remains hugely popular among the Blues faithful, but even the most steadfast of his supporters may take comfort from such glowing endorsements of one of his potential replacements.
Should Chelsea sack Conte if they can get Enrique as his replacement? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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