Chelsea have sacked Graham Potter after just six months in office, which stunned the club’s players, many of whom first heard about it through the club’s public statement on Sunday night.
Potter’s staff, led by Bruno Saltor, have stayed on to take over the team for Tuesday night’s game against Liverpool and Telegraph Sport understands that Chelsea do not have their permanent successor in line to take over immediately.
Julian Nagelsmann will be among the favorites to permanently succeed Potter, along with Mauricio Pochettino, who was being interviewed for the job at the time the former Brighton manager replaced Thomas Tuchel.
Chelsea owners already know Nagelsmann’s agent well, having negotiated the sale of Timo Werner, whom he also represents, to RB Leipzig last summer. The club’s sporting director Laurence Stewart and technical director Christopher Vivell also worked with Nagelsmann in Leipzig.
Potter’s sacking means Chelsea owners Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital have sacked two managers in less than a year after spending over £600million on players and with the club bottom of the table.
Baffled and concerned players contacted their representatives Sunday night, having only learned of Potter’s departure through the official statement released around 8pm.
The players involved in Saturday’s defeat by Aston Villa underwent a recovery session on Sunday and those not involved trained as usual.
But the majority of the squad were not informed of what was to come before returning to their homes and found out via social media and the statement shared with the players.
A source told Telegraph Sport: “Most players had no idea until they saw the statement. People asked who would train on Monday and who would be in charge of Tuesday. Virtually all of them were in recovery or training on Sunday, so they were shocked to find that out at home.”
Chelsea had issued a media statement on Sunday morning that Potter would be completing his pre-match press duties on Monday ahead of Liverpool’s game, but by 3pm the club had started removing him.
Chelsea are understood not to have to pay the full value of Potter’s contract, which would have been worth around £50million with just over four years left, and he has not been placed on gardening leave.
Saturday’s defeat by Villa, which pushed Chelsea to the bottom of the table, was the last straw for club owners who watched the game from the stands at Stamford Bridge.
Sporting directors Stewart and Paul Winstanley are said to have spearheaded the decision to make a change and received the full support of co-controlling owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali.
It was felt that with 10 Premier League games and a Champions League quarter-final game against Real Madrid, something needed to be done to try and salvage the season and give Chelsea a chance to qualify for Europe next season to qualify.
Stewart and Winstanley, assisted by Boehly and Eghbali, will now lead what sources say will be an “exhaustive process” to find Potter’s permanent successor.
Aside from Nagelsmann and Pochettino, former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrqiue is unemployed and has stated he would like to return to management in England.
A statement from Chelsea read: “Chelsea FC have announced that Graham Potter has left the club. Graham has agreed to work with the club to ensure a smooth transition. During his time at the club, Graham took us to the quarter-finals of the Champions League where we meet Real Madrid. Chelsea would like to thank Graham for all his efforts and contribution and wish him all the best for the future. Bruno Saltor will take over the team as interim head coach.”
Co-controlling owners Boehly and Eghbali said: “On behalf of everyone at the club we would like to express our sincere thanks to Graham for his contribution to Chelsea. We have the utmost respect for Graham as a coach and as a person. He has always behaved professionally and with integrity and we are all disappointed with this result.
“Together with our incredible fans we will all stand behind Bruno and the team as we focus on the rest of the season. We still have 10 Premier League games and a Champions League quarter-final ahead of us. We will give everything in each of these games so that we can end the season on a high note.”
Potter gave his blessing for his staff to stay after his departure, while first-team coach Anthony Barry remains on furlough while he awaits whether Bayern Munich, now managed by Tuchel, can negotiate a deal to bring him to Germany.