Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has rebuffed speculation linking him with becoming the new manager at his former club Chelsea. The ex-Wales international has guided The Potters to successive ninth-place finishes in his two full seasons in charge at the Britannia Stadium, and this term the club are currently on course for another top-half finish.
Hughes has been particularly praised for reinventing Stoke's style of play, which is a far cry from the philosophy adopted under Tony Pulis. The former Manchester United and Barcelona forward has also helped lure big-name players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay to the club.
The Guardian understands that the 52 year old is among the candidates being considered by Chelsea to become the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho, who was sacked in December after the club's title defence collapsed in the opening months of the current campaign. Diego Simeone, Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri are also in contention, though the Juventus boss has said he is not interested in the role. But despite being linked with the position, he has rejected the speculation. Hughes played for Chelsea from 1995 to 1998 but is not ready for a return to west London, with his contract at Stoke not due to run out until 2019.
"There is a little bit of speculation about certain roles in the Premier League at the moment and, at some point, if you have a decent spell, you get mentioned," he told Sky Sports when asked about the interest from Chelsea. "I think it is no more and no less than that. I think everyone just tries to cover all bases and mentions everybody, and this week I got a mention.
"It's nice to be mentioned I suppose, because that reflects well on me, but more so on the players and how well they are doing, which is how it should be because we are having a decent season. But we are fully focused here and enjoying what we are doing. It is a good time to be at Stoke. Everybody feels we are going in the right direction and building something. So I'm very happy."
Guus Hiddink has taken temporary charge of Chelsea since the departure of Mourinho, with the Dutchman unbeaten in his seven games so far at the helm. Diego Costa's only goal helped the Blues overcome title challengers Arsenal last weekend, but the latest test of the club's new-found resolve comes in the form of Milton Keynes Dons in the FA Cup fourth round.