The ready answer to Mark Hughes's Fulham departure: He was angling for the Aston Villa job after it became clear that Gerard Houllier's health would not permit continuing as manager. But for the clearly ambitious Hughes was this really a step up going from midtable to midtable?
In the light of a gentlemen's agreement between the CEO's of the two clubs this was a move that was never going to happen. Hughes's agent is the controversial Kia Joorabchian who introduced the English league to the murky world of third party ownership through Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. He has an arrest warrant out for him in Brazil for off shoring accounts and tax evasion.
Joorabchian was pushing to get Hughes more money at Fulham and using the Villa job as leverage. Meanwhile Hughes activated a break clause in his two year contract and walked out insisting he was not influenced by "an outside party". It is hard not to be cynical when it seems to be too much of a coincidence with the Villa job falling vacant and his departure. But this seems to be too trite an explanation. Why would he do that and endanger both jobs unless his target lay elsewhere?
Right on cue, John Terry comes up with a statement saying he would welcome either Guus Hiddink or Mark Hughes.
"Mark Hughes would have the qualities, I think he has shown that for sure, [he is] someone the club will hopefully be talking to. I know Mark and his staff. The understanding of the club and what it means to the supporters will come naturally to those guys. If he is linked in, it will be welcome to the players."
The Dutchman seems to be inching towards a managerial takeover but his preference all along has been taking over the less onerous role of director of football operations. A back office resource person who could supplement whoever was in charge.
Now Terry is being a bit disingenuous by saying he has no influence over the club's choice of manager. One remembers clearly the role Terry had in getting Mourinho fired. It was presented to the Chelsea board as an ultimatum and then CEO Peter Kenyon was faced with the choice of the club's talisman potential departure or the manager who scaled unprecedented heights before finding feet of clay in his third season. Mourinho was let go. Sounds familiar?
Terry's remarks are not all that off the cuff. It's a calculated plug - there are literally five other names who might be potential managers but Hughes is the one mentioned alongside Hiddink? And then he practically welcomes him to the locker room.
Hughes's qualities were less appreciated at Man City and the unseemly manner of his departure from that club seems to have burned him - it seems to have fueled a desire to jump ship for another set for an upwardly mobile trajectory. One of the problems at City was the management of all those big name egos thrown together for the first time. A task that could have been eased if Hughes had found a locker room leader. In Chelsea, clearly that will not be the problem. In Terry's words he finds an ally.
Villa has for all practical purposes ended their interest in Hughes and the choices mentioned include Martin Jol or Steve McLaren. So does Hughes represent a real possibility for Roman Abramovich?
The first choice remains Hiddink obviously but the Russian owner has shown he's not afraid of the quixotic with his managerial choices - Avram Grant replaced Mourinho and managed Chelsea for a year and Big Phil Scolari was reeled back to a club career after spending a number of years coaching national teams. None of them worked out but Hughes might feel he's ready once again for a big club and this time with the necessary tools and craft to succeed. He clearly could have another club in mind when he said he was not influenced by "an outside party."