As often as the idea of a former player coming back to manage Chelsea is bandied about, it very rarely involves a certain Slaviša Jokanović, he of two years, 53 appearances, and zero goals in total for the club. In fact, when Jokanović was released in 2002, just three months before his eventual retirement, Chelsea felt it necessary to point out in the official announcement that he was a valuable member of the team, almost like a player-coach, despite fan reaction to the contrary.
“He wasn’t the most popular player with the fans but his input was always appreciated by the staff and players.”
-source: BBC, July 2002
He may not have been Lampard, Terry, Zola, Drogba, or Ballack in terms of accomplishments or fan rapport during his days at Stamford Bridge, but Jokanović has since turned those valuable “inputs” into actual success as a football manager. In his brief, barely a decade-old career, he’s already won titles in his native Serbia (the Double with Partizan Belgrade, launching Stevan Jovetić’s career) and Thailand (going undefeated) and promotion from the Championship to the Premier League with two different teams (Watford and, just now, Fulham). It’s not Conte-levels of winning, but he’s not quite had the same opportunities as yet.
Could Chelsea provide him with his first such big opportunity? He would certainly fit the profile of someone outside the tried and true big names whom Chelsea may be avoiding this time around.
Jokanovic in talks with Chelsea as Sarri hopes are plagued by contractual issues. Blanc has also spoken to Chelsea but Luis Enrique is still not interested in coming back to management #CFC https://t.co/WBv9SDFxo3— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) June 3, 2018
Yesterday, Gianluca Di Marzio reported that Chelsea had met with Jokanović once already and were due for “more talks” this weekend. A similar report now comes from Goal’s man on the Chelsea beat, Nizaar Kinsella, saying that the Blues are “in talks” with the 49-year-old. So that fits into a coherent rumor.
Kinsella’s report does run contrary to the other story that surfaced this weekend, that Luis Enrique is back in the picture as well, saying that the former Barcelona head coach actually isn’t interested in a return to management yet. Perhaps that has something to do with his outrageous wage demands that scared off both Chelsea and Arsenal. Kinsella also mentions Laurent Blanc, and again confirms that the Sarri option is looking less likely even as the former Napoli coach steps back from the brink of a legal showdown with Aurelio De Laurentiis.
In any case, Jokanović is starting to sound an actual option. And while — obligatory mention — I’d still much rather just keep Conte and concentrate on improving the squad, Jokanović is probably not the worst choice we could make this summer. But we really need to start figuring all this out, and soon.