Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich.
If this sounds like the Champions League semi-final line-up from 2008 then one could be forgiven. It is in fact just four of the top clubs graced by Mark Hughes during a playing career that took him all over Europe.
After Stoke City knocked Chelsea out of Capital One Cup to heap pressure on Jose Mourinho and the recent 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge under interim boss Guus Hiddink, Hughes must be wondering what he needs to do to get the Chelsea job.
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If there was a 'Rooney rule' to fast track ex-players or at least guarantee them an interview he may have managed one of those great clubs by now.
Also, with Manchester United going through managers almost as quickly as Roman Abramovich, he might be forgiven for thinking that he would be the ideal man for the Old Trafford hot-seat with fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs as his number two.
As it is, Hughes is still waiting for that day.
It was the 52-year-old who famously coined the ‘hairdryer’ phrase to describe Alex Ferguson’s unique motivational management style, but unlike other ex-United players Roy Keane and Paul Ince, he does not overuse it himself. Rather like ex-teammate Steve Bruce at Hull, he has become a solid football manager in his own right.
Maybe Hughes needs to win a trophy in order to be taken seriously. Stoke came close to the Capital One Cup final narrowly losing the semi-final on penalties to Liverpool after winning 1-0 at Anfield.
If indeed Mourinho is a certainty to get the Old Trafford job and Antonio Conte has an agreement to take over at Chelsea it would mean more waiting for Hughes.
When Louis van Gaal was under intense pressure, Hughes said that Manchester United had “a responsibility to entertain” and he has done just that since taking over from Tony Pulis at the Potteries, transforming the team with a stylish front four of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkic, with Marko Arnautovic given the freedom of a false nine.
In the January transfer window Hughes broke the club's transfer record after signing French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto for a fee of £18.3 million and although Stoke have not quite reached the same level as Watford in terms of diversity, they remain an assorted group being moulded into shape inside the furnace of Hughes’ fiery passion.
Now unbeaten in four league games the next match is at home to another ex-club Southampton as ‘Sparky’ goes in search of three points to climb further up the table and facilitate his own burning ambition.
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