Chelsea have included Javi Gracia on a shortlist of candidates to replace Maurizio Sarri as the English Premier League club's head coach, reports the Daily Record.
Gracia has captured the attention of Chelsea 's hierarchy with the understated and efficient manner in which he has guided Watford to an FA Cup Final and an opportunity to qualify for European football through their league position.
Should Watford win Monday evening's home fixture with Arsenal they will open up a two-point advantage over Leicester City and Wolverhampton in the chase for seventh place. Gracia's team would also re-establish a lead over a third club working with a significantly larger recruitment budget, Everton.
In addition to the results and quality of football Gracia has delivered since his January 2018 appointment, Chelsea have been impressed by the Spaniard's calm and controversy-free demeanour.
With control of transfer policy essential to the club's finances, Chelsea's hierarchy also like the idea of appointing a coach who will not make aggressive demands to recruit elite players, and would work with the squad provided for him.
Gracia is tied to Watford until the summer of 2023, with an option for a further three years, the longest contract held by any Premier League manager. The Daily Record has been told that Watford's owners, the Pozzo family, offered such an atypically long deal both as a measure of their faith in Gracia, and because they envisaged the opportunity to secure a large compensation payment should a wealthier club choose to hire him.
The Pozzos' expertise in player trading has been the foundation for Udinese's success in Serie A and Watford's emergence as one of the Premier League's best organised clubs. Last season, Everton offered Watford's owners a fee of £10million for Marco Silva. Although Everton's proposal was rejected because it arrived mid-campaign, the Pozzos noted the potential profit to be made in bringing coaches of Silva and Gracia's calibre to English football and providing them with a platform to demonstrate their value.
Chelsea - who remain ensconced in a battle with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal to secure Champions League qualification through a top-four Premier League finish or Europa League victory - have yet to make a final decision on next season's coaching staff. Also amongst the candidates to succeed the unpopular and tactically dogmatic Sarri are Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo and former captain Frank Lampard.
Sarri, meanwhile, has an offer to return to Italy as coach of AS Roma, and is understood to have encouraged the Serie A club's interest. Were the 60-year-old former-Napoli coach be dismissed by his employers for the second summer running, he would leave London with a substantial pay-off.