Carlo Ancelotti will be in the running for a Chelsea return if Jose Mourinho is axed.
But the former Blues boss has told friends he would only consider a second spell at Stamford Bridge if he was offered a permanent deal.
Mourinho’s job is on the line after a disastrous start to Chelsea’s title defence which sees them languishing in 15th place, after five defeats from ten matches – and some senior players believe it is only a matter of time before the Portuguese departs.
Ancelotti led Chelsea to the Double at the first attempt in 2009-10 but was controversially sacked a year later.
It is known he would relish the chance to manage in England again and is not ruling out a second stab at the Chelsea job – with Roman Abramovich said to have regretted his decision to fire the Italian four and a half years ago.
But Ancelotti, who has been out of work since leaving Real Madrid in the summer, would not be interested in an interim role until the end of the season.
Chelsea are nine points adrift of the top four – and if Abramovich becomes convinced that his club are in serious danger of losing their place in the Champions League elite, then time will be up for Mourinho.
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone, considered another leading contender to replace the Special One, would require a vast compensation pay-out as he is under contract in the Spanish capital until 2020 – a deal worth more than £20million.
Simeone’s lack of fluent English would also be a hindrance to him taking over at Stamford Bridge.
And there are currently no indications that Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola, a long-term favourite of Abramovich, would be willing to join Chelsea after his current contract expires next summer.
The German champions are hoping to agree a new deal with Guardiola, although no formal talks have yet been held.