MALAGA coach Manuel Pellegrini has emerged as the frontrunner to be the next manager, despite reports that Jose Mourinho is keen to return to Stamford Bridge.

The 59-year-old is understood to have shown interest in taking over at the club this summer when Rafael Benitez’s interim stewardship comes to an end.

The Chilean overcame financial problems to take Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League this season, before they lost to Borussia Dortmund.

Although he has never coached outside of a Spanish-speaking country, Pellegrini speaks good English and has drawn admiration from the Chelsea hierarchy.

Initially, former Chelsea coach Mourinho was touted as the favourite for the job, with reports suggesting he will leave Real Madrid at the end of this term.

Pellegrini, who has coached at Real Madrid and Villarreal, has a €4 million buy-out clause in his Malaga contract, which runs until the end of next season.

While it is not clear whether he is willing to leave Spain, if the Chilean coach should end up at StamfordBridge, he can expect to earn at least €5 million a year.

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