Low emerges as surprise candidate for Chelsea job

Germany boss in frame to replace Villas-Boas as Eriksson declares interest and Benitez drops hint

GERMANY coach Joachim Low last night emerged as a shock contender to succeed Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea turned their attention to recruiting a long-term replacement for the sacked manager.

Low, one of the most highly-regarded technicians on the continent, having reinvigorated Germany as a force since taking over in 2006, is said to have held informal talks about the job yesterday.

He took his country to the final of Euro 2008 in his first major tournament in charge and continued to impress at the 2010 World Cup, where a youthful Germany reached the last four, humiliating England on the way.

The 52-year-old, whose contract runs until 2014, won 10 games out of 10 in qualifying for this summer’s European Championship, where Germany are among the favourites to win the trophy.

Low is one of several urbane European coaches thought to be in Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s sights as he prepares for next season, along with former Blues boss Jose Mourinho and Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho has cast doubt on his desire to remain at Real Madrid, despite looking set to end their Catalan rivals’ dominance in La Liga, and paid a visit to London last week.

Guardiola is yet to commit to a new contract at Camp Nou and fits Chelsea’s criteria, although it is not known to what extent the challenge of overhauling an ageing Blues squad appeals to the Spaniard.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson (inset) unequivocally declared his interest yesterday, however. The much-travelled Swede has been out of work since leaving Leicester in October and has previously interested Abramovich.

“I would take it, of course,” said the ex-Manchester City boss. “They already have a manager for the rest of the season and I guess that is a natural solution, because he has been in the club for the whole season.”

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was more coy but left the door open for a switch to west London. He said: “I would like to have in the future a top side, a top club that can fight for titles and challenge.”

Chelsea, who visit Birmingham tonight in a testing FA Cup fifth-round replay, have placed former assistant Roberto di Matteo in charge for the rest of the season as they attempt to salvage a top four finish in the Premier League.