When the Leicester City players walk out of the tunnel at the King Power Stadium Monday night to face Liverpool in the Premier League, Craig Shakespeare will be the man sat in the home dugout.
On Wednesday, just 292 days after leading Leicester to the most surprising Premier League title in history, Claudio Ranieri was sacked as manager. Shakespeare, the Italian’s assistant, has taken up the role of caretaker until the club announces a successor.
Here, Newsweek looks at the possible contenders to help guide champions Leicester City away from the relegation zone:
The dynamic Dutchman is building a reputation as the Premier League’s go-to man when a temporary saviour is needed. Twice called upon by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after firing his manager; first when Luiz Scolari in was sacked in 2009 and, more recently, stepping in once Jose Mourinho departed in 2016, perhaps a parachute should be a permanent fixture on Hiddink’s back.
The 70-year-old’s steady hand led Chelsea to the FA Cup in his first stint, while a less trophy laden, but equally effective, second spell saw the club rise seven places in the table last season, up from 17th to 10th. That would certainly do for Leicester. But unlike Chelsea, the fallen champion is now in the relegation zone with 12 games remaining of the season.
Guus Hiddink at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, April 23, 2016. Hiddink has been caretaker manager of Chelsea on two occasions. GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty
Hiddink’s representatives have already held talks with Leicester City, according to The Times, and the Dutchman will consider whether to take on the role. The two sets of representatives are believed to be holding talks again after Monday night’s game.
The return of Nigel Pearson to the King Power Stadium would be the third time Leicester City announce the bruising coach as boss. But, at Leicester, anything seems possible.
In the first coming, between 2008 and 2010, Pearson guided Leicester back to the Championship but left to become manager of Hull City. Little over a year on, he was back in talks with Leicester and rejoined the club in November 2011.
His second reign was one of the most turbulent in the Premier League. The highs included getting the club promoted to the Premier League as champions in 2014, and then completing the great escape the following year, becoming only the third team to avoid relegation after being bottom of the table at Christmas.
Nigel Pearson, right, and Riyad Mahrez at KC Stadium, Hull, England, December 28, 2014. Pearson was eventually sacked following a string of controversial incidents. Tony Marshall/Getty
But Pearson’s tenure was also mired in controversy. In February 2015, he put his hands around the neck of Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur, described a journalist as an “ostrich,” deriding him “stupid” and “daft, before finally being sacked once his son, James, a Leicester City player, was reportedly linked to a racist sex tape made by three players on a pre-season tour of Thailand.
Ranieri’s fellow Italian, Roberto Mancini, has been linked as a potential successor for the job at the King Power Stadium. The former Manchester City boss has already had a taste of football in Leicester, having played four times for the club during a loan spell from Lazio in 2001.
Mancini, himself out of work since leaving Inter Milan by mutual consent last summer, paid tribute to Ranieri following the news of his dismissal, writing on Twitter that he was “sorry for my friend” and that he will “remain in the history” of Leicester City.
But Mancini, despite withdrawing from management, is far from scrambling for ways to fill his time. The 52-year-old has traded the coach’s tracksuit for a tuxedo as he competes in the ‘Ballando con le Stelle’, Italy’s version of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
When asked about the Leicester job, ESPN quotes Mancini as saying: “I’ve not received any offer, no.”
After Ranieri, Martin O’Neill is the most successful manager in Leicester City’s history. In five years at Leicester, the Irishman got the club promoted to the Premier League, won the League Cup twice and came runner-up once, while achieving four top-10 finishes in the Premier League.
Such success would be welcome again. But O’Neill, currently manager of the Republic of Ireland, has ruled himself out of the race.
“I am really enjoying being an international manager and we have a job to do,” he told the BBC. “I wouldn’t be going. I am enjoying this at the moment.”Try Newsweek: Subscription offers