Luiz Felipe Scolari broke his silence about joining Chelsea last night and admitted that the Portuguese Federation's failure to attract sufficient funds to keep him was a factor in the move. He insisted money was not the only reason for moving back into club football after seven years, but was honest enough not to ignore the attraction of a contract worth £5m a year as well as a huge transfer war-chest.
"Money did matter but it wasn't the only thing," he said at the St Jakob Stadium, where Portugal, who are through to the quarter-finals already, play their final Group A game against Switzerland tonight. "Sometimes it's good to change, it's positive. I'm 59 now, 60 soon and I want four or five more years as a coach, then to retire. You only get an opportunity once so you have to take it or leave it."
Sensitive to criticism that he has let Portugal down by causing such a distraction in the middle of a tournament they have started so well, he said: "The president of the Federation looked for assistance with sponsors but didn't get it. We tried but there were numbers and based upon these figures we decided the best option for me was what I decided two or three days ago. They told me I was free to negotiate with whoever I wanted. I negotiated and we all knew that one day we would start and one day we would end. Every decision was taken knowing that the people concerned were aware of what was happening."
Questioned further on a topic he wanted to close, he became briefly and untypically monosyllabic. Might his decision alter Portugal's performance here? "No." Was it good timing? "Yes." Wouldn't he be held responsible if Portugal now went out of the tournament? "I'm always responsible." Did it not show a lack of respect for Portuguese players and supporters? "No."
Speaking through an interpreter, though he claims to speak English to players and clearly understood some of the questions, he was more loquacious on the qualities he looks for in a top-level footballer. Significantly for those at Stamford Bridge – and those who hope to be – they are as much human ones as sporting. "I look for technical qualities and also personal skills, so we can have good technical quality but also work as a unit. Personal qualities are vital. If it was an individual sport, it would be different but it is a collective sport. So I also look at things that are relevant to a group."
As to his own qualities as a coach who won the World Cup with Brazil and took Portugal to a European Championship final, there were no claims to be a particularly special one. "I think I'm a relatively good manager because the results speak for themselves," he said. "I've got weak points. I'm maybe not a coach for exploiting every aspect of football."
That was taken to be a reference to the scientific and statistical approach increasingly employed by younger managers. But he denied that not having worked in club football since 2001 would be a disadvantage: "I coached clubs for 18 to 20 years [1982 to 2001]. I know the ins and outs, there's no problem."
Chelsea supporters looking at Portugal here tonight with new interest should beware reading too much into what they see. Those not keen on Avram Grant's cerebral touchline demeanour will doutbless enjoy watching the more demonstrative Brazilian, especially when a piece of play or a refereeing decision displeases him, but with qualification already assured after two impressive victories, Scolari will give most of his shadow squad a run-out today. Uefa officials have confirmed that there are no rules against fielding a weakened team.
What has still not been satisfactorily explained is why Chelsea suddenly announced his appointment an hour after Portugal's game against the Czechs on Wednesday, less than a week after Scolari insisted: "If I decide to stay or go, I will make a declaration after [the tournament]. I might sign again or I might leave. Euro, Euro, Euro, my life goes around that."
That is how Portugal's players would have wanted it, and some of them are said to be privately annoyed by the disruption to a campaign every bit as promising as the last European Championship, in which home advantage helped take them to the final against Greece.Reuse content