Tony Pulis leaves: Five candidates for the Stoke City job

With Tony Pulis leaving his role of Stoke City manager, here are five favourites to take up the role with the Premier League club.

RAFAEL BENITEZ:

Rafel Benitez is a surprise favourite for the Stoke City job
Rafel Benitez is a surprise favourite for the Stoke City job Credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport
  • Odds: 2/1 (favourite)
  • Notable teams managed: Valencia (2001-04); Liverpool (2004-2010); Inter Milan (2010); Chelsea (2012-13)
  • Notable managerial honours: La Liga (2001-2, 2003-4); UEFA Cup/Europa League (2003-4, 2012-13); FA Cup (2005-6); FA Community Shield (2006); Champions League (2004-5); Super Cup (2005); Supercoppa Italiana (2010); Club World Cup (2010)

One of the most decorated managers in Europe, Rafa Benitez's emergence as the favourite to take over Stoke City may come as a surprise to many.

Benitez inherited a Valencia side who had just come off back-to-back Champions League finals which meant there was a lot of pressure on the Spaniard. But he won over the fans with his attacking football as they won La Liga in his first season, Valenica's first in 31 years. Benitez repeated the feat two years later, winning the league with three games to go as well as winning the UEFA Cup.

More success followed at Liverpool as he continued the club's strong tradition in Europe by pulling off a shock Champions League win in the infamous 'miracle of Istanbul' as they came back from 3-0 down against AC Milan to win on penalties. Benitez added the FA Cup the following season in another dramatic final famous for Steven Gerrard's thunderbolt equaliser in stoppage time against West Ham. In doing so Benitez became the first manager to win major titles in both his first two seasons at Liverpool. Benitez also helped Liverpool to their highest ever points total in 2008-9 as they finished 2nd in the league.

Benitez struggled at Inter Milan off the back of their famous treble and was dismissed within a few months.

He controversially joined Chelsea earlier this season, a fiercly unpopular choice with the fans following his rivalry with the club while manager of Liverpool. Despite the pressure, Benitez added the Europa League to his increasing trophy haul and ensured the club qualified for the Champions League once more.

ROBERTO DI MATTEO:

Roberto Di Matteo helped win Chelsea's first ever Champions League trophy
Roberto Di Matteo helped win Chelsea's first ever Champions League trophy Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/Press Association Images
  • Odds: 4/1
  • Teams managed: MK Dons (2008-9); West Bromwich Albion (2009-11); Chelsea (2012)
  • Managerial honours: FA Cup (2011-12); Champions League (2011-12)

Di Matteo spent one season at MK Dons and took the club to the brink of promotion to the Championship as they finished third in the league and were knocked out of the Play-off semi-finals on penalties.

Di Matteo found immediate success at WBA as he brought the team back to the Premier League straight away as they finished second in the Championship. He then led the side to their best ever start in the Premier League but a run of poor results including a 6-0 loss to Chelsea saw him sacked half way through the season.

After working as assistant to Andres Villas-Boas, Di Matteo became manager for the rest of the season and won the FA Cup and the trophy Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich craved more than any other, the Champions League. But after another good start to the league followed by a stutter, Di Matteo was removed as manager the following season.

GUSTAVO POYET:

Gus Poyet has a growing reputation following his success at Brighton
Gus Poyet has a growing reputation following his success at Brighton Credit: Chris Ison/PA Archive/Press Association Images
  • Odds: 10/1
  • Teams managed: Brighton & Hove Albion (2009-present)
  • Managerial honours: League One Championship (2010-11)

Poyet has been a huge success in his only managerial role so far at Brighton as he steered the relegation-threatened club to safety in his first season before winning the League One title the following one.

Poyet then saw more success in his next two years as he solidified the club's Championship status and made them promotion contenders. He was suspended by the club following an incident in the Play-off semi final second leg against Crystal Palace and is expected to leave the club.

MARK HUGHES:

Mark Hughes was sacked as QPR manager last season
Mark Hughes was sacked as QPR manager last season Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire.
  • Odds: 12/1
  • Teams managed: Wales (1999-2004); Blackburn Rovers (2004-08); Manchester City (2008-09); Fulham (2010-11) QPR (2012)
  • Managerial honours: None

The fourth candidate to have a Chelsea connection, Hughes is a manager whose stock has fluctuated greatly during his long career. Hughes began at Wales where he came close to taking the side to Euro 2004 as they lost to Russia in the play-offs.

Hughes's reputation grew at Blackburn where he took the side to three consecutive FA Cup semi-finals in his first three seasons as well as leading the club to a top six finish in his second.

Mark Hughes then took over Manchester City and was the first manager of the Abu Dhabi Group era as he spent a then British record £32.5m on Robinho amongst a number of other expensive players. But Hughes struggled to meet the expectations of a demanding group of owners and was sacked in his second season after a run of seven games without a win.

Hughes then spent a season at Fulham where he took the club to 8th in the league.

He then joined another big spending club, QPR, but oversaw their worst start to a season. They went 12 games without a victory and Hughes was sacked before the end of the 2012-13 season.

PHIL NEVILLE

Phil Neville has nearly 700 club appearances for Manchester United and Everton
Phil Neville has nearly 700 club appearances for Manchester United and Everton Credit: Barrington Coombs/EMPICS Sport
  • Odds: 14/1
  • Teams managed: None
  • Managerial honours: None

The left-field and possibly more risky option, Neville has the playing experience with six premier League titles and a Champions League winners medal.

Neville has worked under two of the longest serving managers in Premier League history, Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester Utd and David Moyes at Everton.

He also had success at international level, winning 59 caps.

By Joe Lobo