The relationship between Luiz Felipe Scolari and Didier Drogba appeared to be at breaking point last night when the Chelsea manager admitted he had no idea whether his striker attended a meeting with Internazionale officials in London on Monday. The future of the Chelsea striker threatened to overshadow the club's Champions League match against Bordeaux tonight.
Scolari was in an uncharacteristically tetchy mood when he was asked about the meeting which is alleged to have involved Internazionale's director Marco Branca and Jose Mourinho's agent Jorges Mendes. The Chelsea manager reacted angrily when he was asked whether he knew about the meeting. "I don't know, I don't sleep with him," he said. "What he did last night I don't know. I am not a policeman for my players, I'm the coach. Ask Roman [Abramovich] or Peter [Kenyon, chief executive]."
Drogba trained with the team in Bordeaux last night and could even start in a game that Chelsea must win to ensure qualification for the Champions League knockout round. While Scolari attempted to play down the significance of the meeting – "this time of the year is Christmas for agents," he said – it is the latest problem for a player who was suspended for three games for throwing a coin into the crowd in the Carling Cup game against Burnley and has been limited to nine appearances all season because of a knee injury.
There is still great scepticism at Chelsea that Drogba would be as bold as to request a move in January, especially as it would be unlikely that Internazionale could afford his wages. However, Drogba has already admitted in his autobiography that he took a flight to Italy two years ago to meet the Milan vice-president, Adriano Galliani. Now, with Scolari's regime showing the first signs of problems, the club find themselves in another damaging situation with the player.
There has been no attempt by either side to challenge the original report of the meeting which appeared in Italy yesterday. Scolari was only told about it just before he attended his mandatory Uefa press conference at the Stade Chaban-Delmas yesterday. Mourinho said that he did not know "if the meeting took place between my agent and Drogba." He added: "All I know is that I was with Rui Faria [fitness coach] and our families having dinner. I am not sure of Drogba's future but I know his history at Chelsea and the last time I read something in an English newspaper there was talk of him staying there."
Scolari reacted badly when Nicolas Anelka was asked whether he preferred to play alone in attack or alongside Drogba. Interrupting the French striker, Scolari said that it was his decision, not that of the player, as to where he was used. "It's not a problem for Anelka, the problem for Anelka is whether he plays," Scolari said. "The 'A-B-C' [tactics] is my job. It is not for players to like this or that, it's for me to say. Don't put words in his mouth because afterwards it's a big problem for me."
There was also a warning for his players that they should not miss another chance to seal qualification as they did on 4 November when they lost 3-1 to Roma. The Brazilian has made a virtue of staying unflappable since his arrival in England but, with a game against Arsenal looming on Sunday and nine points dropped in the Premier League already, there is undoubtedly some pressure on him. "We need to qualify here or afterwards against the Romanians CFR Cluj [on 9 December]. We lost one chance against Roma and this is the second chance but neither me nor the players expect a third chance."
He defended his record in the Champions League – in two away game he is yet to win – by saying that Chelsea were up against better opposition in European competition. "We play against the best teams in Europe in the Champions League, it's different to when we play in the Premier League," he said. The big decision tonight will be whether to risk Drogba who has not played since his suspension began after the West Bromwich Albion game on 15 November.
The Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc said that he expected Drogba and Anelka to play some part in the match. "Cluj shut up shop against Chelsea and defended really well," he said. "We can take heart from that. As long as we can defend well, we have a chance." Fail to win tonight and it will be a scramble to qualify at home to Cluj that Scolari can well do without.
Bordeaux (4-2-3-1): Valverde; Chalme, Diawara, Planus, Jurietti; Fernando, Diarra; Bellion, Gourcuff, Wendel; Chamakh.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, A Cole; Mikel; Malouda, Lampard, Ballack, J Cole; Drogba.
Referee: F De Bleeckere (Belgium)
Results: Chelsea 4 Bordeaux 0, Roma 1 CFR Cluj 2; Bordeaux 1 Roma 3, CFR Cluj 0 Chelsea 0; Bordeaux 1 CFR Cluj 0, Chelsea 1 Roma 0; CFR Cluj 1 Bordeaux 2, Roma 3 Chelsea 1.
Remaining fixtures: Today: Bordeaux v Chelsea, CFR Cluj v Roma; 9 Dec: Chelsea v CFR Cluj, Roma v Bordeaux.