Pellegrini, Poyet, Simeone & Zola on Abramovich's shortlist to replace Benitez, says Wilkins

The former England midfielder claims the Blues legend's work at Watford has not gone unnoticed and that he is one of a select few coaching candidates put forward by the oligarch
Former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins has revealed that club owner Roman Abramovich is a "big fan" of Watford manager Gianfranco Zola.

The Blues are set to replace interim boss Rafa Benitez at the end of the season, and the 56-year-old believes that the Italian is one of four leading candidates alongside Malaga's Manuel Pellegrini, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and Gus Poyet of Brighton and Hove Albion.

Wilkins, who worked as assistant manager at Stamford Bridge between 2008 and 2010, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think there are four contenders - [Manuel] Pellegrini, [Diego] Simeone, Gus Poyet and I also know for a fact he's a big fan of Gianfranco Zola, who is doing a tremendous job at Watford."

Despite Benitez's public criticism of Chelsea fans and his interim status last week, Wilkins said he expects the Spaniard to stay to the end of the season, and urged the club to agree a new deal with midfielder Frank Lampard, who is out of contract in the summer.

He added: "I think Frank has to stay. Frank has done more than a good job for Chelsea this season and will continue to do as long as he stays fit."