Intrigue mounted Thursday over the identity of Russia's new manager amid reports that Fabio Capello was already in Moscow to negotiate terms for a contract to revive the squad's fortunes.
Capello's name is one of 12 to feature in an extraordinary list of possible managerial targets that Russia was forced to release to dispel rumours that it had already secretly hired a coach.
The wish list includes such giants as ex-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and one-time Liverpool chief Rafael Benitez as well as former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.
The Englishman for one wasted no time brushing off the Russian approaches but telling The Sun that "I haven't been contacted but I'm sure it's a fantastic job for someone."
But Capello's name has clearly piqued the interest of suffering fans the most. He was rumoured as the Russian Football Union's (RFU) first choice and reportedly eager to accept the lucrative and high-profile assignment.
Giving more weight to the rumour mill was a tweet from a Russian football player who said he had just seen Capello sitting in the arrivals hall of a Moscow airport and waiting to be picked up by someone.
"I am in shock. I asked for an autograph and Don Fabio did not refuse," Amkar Perm striker Sergei Volkov wrote.
"It looks like we have a contender for the head managerial job."
And the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted its own sources as saying Capello was already in Moscow "to conduct negotiations concerning Russia's head coaching job."
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko made clear that he viewed Capello on a par with Guus Hiddink -- a legend in Russia who showed flashes of coaching brilliance while guiding the unfancied side to the Euro 2008 semi-finals.
Capello "would be a good option for Russia," Mutko told reporters. "He knows how to win."
The Russian post became vacant when Dick Advocaat quit after Russia's first round exit from Euro 2012.
Russian sports bosses are also busy looking for a new overall head of football following the sacking of Russian Football Union chief Sergei Fursenko after the fiasco of the team's performance in Euro 2012.
Russia's shock failure to qualify out of what many though was the event's weakest group left the team low on morale and limited in choices as it assumes the challenge of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
But the bigger prize will come in 2018 when Russia becomes the first Eastern European country to host the world's most watched event.