FA in turmoil after Scolari pulls out of England race

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The Independent Online

Luiz Felipe Scolari threw the Football Association into chaos yesterday when he announced his intention to withdraw from the race to be the new England manager just as the FA was preparing to appoint him. In an amazing turnaround the Brazilian broke the news at a press conference in Germany with the words "I will not be the England coach".

The FA only knew that the announcement from Scolari was coming 30 minutes before he spoke ­ and the revelation was a humiliating blow for the five-man FA appointment committee, led by the chief executive, Brian Barwick. Scolari, 57, blamed media intrusion although secretly the FA fears that he simply used its offer to force the Portuguese football federation, the PFF, to give him a more lucrative deal.

As the FA contemplated a crushing snub from Scolari, and a hasty reconsideration of its other four discarded candidates, the reasons for the Brazilian's change of heart were still unclear. It was claimed that threats made against Scolari's family had contributed to him changing his mind, although these reports were unconfirmed.

Scolari himself also cited media pressure and earlier in the day had thrown a British tabloid newspaper on the floor at Frankfurt airport. Scolari, who verbally accepted the job on Wednesday, is said to feel hurt by the salary offer made to him by Barwick. The £2.5m basic was inferior to the £5m earned by Sven Goran Eriksson and the Brazilian felt his status as a World Cup winner would entitle him to the same as Eriksson. Sources in Portugal say he felt he was considered a cheap option by the FA. Last night, however, a remarkable day took another twist when Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager and new favourite for the post, admitted to The Sun he had an affair during a three-month separation from his wife ­ it is unclear what impact the revelation will have on his chances of getting the job.

However, it was the dramatic press conference called by Scolari in Germany at 5.30pm yesterday that made history ­ the Brazilian became the first man to turn down the England manager's job.

In a statement the FA said it would "reflect" on Scolari's announcement before "making any further comment" as it moved " forward with the process".

It is understood that Barwick called McClaren, Martin O'Neill, Sam Allardyce and Alan Curbishley earlier in the day to tell them the Scolari deal was not completed. Some of the candidates have expressed dismay at the lack of communication from the FA.

Sources at the FA expressed fears that Scolari was not prepared for the level of interest that accompanied the job ­ and the intrusion into his private life was his chief complaint yesterday. He said he had been horrified to read newspaper comparisons between his wife, Olga, and Sven Goran Eriksson's partner, Nancy Dell'Olio. Although for someone who has withstood the Brazilian media's spotlight, and once punched a Brazilian journalist, it was an unusual reaction.

Speaking at the Hotel Klosterpforte, Portugal's World Cup base near to Dortmund, Scolari said: "Portugal at this moment cannot cope with a coach negotiating with other federations ­ they don't really need it at the time being.

"Yesterday I talked with a few friends who helped in my decision. There were 20 reporters in front of my house ­ that was too much and I didn't like it all. I have been in talks with the English FA and I want to thank the Portuguese federation president [Gilberto Madail] for giving [me] the chance to talk to them.

"I am not and will not be the England coach but I am happy the English federation [FA] remembered my name and I expect them to name the new coach in the days to come. It was an interesting offer with several interesting options and I really thought about it for a long time."

Scolari's day had begun with the press pack outside his home in Lisbon and then a second confrontation in Frankfurt airport where he grabbed a copy of the Daily Mail from a reporter and tossed it aside.

After midday, the Portuguese national radio began broadcasting a story that he had signed a new two-year deal with the PFF ­ the Stuttgart and Portugal defender Fernando Meira was even interviewed on television talking about the PFF's coup.

Scolari is still yet to sign that new contract. He had previously entered into a gentleman's agreement with the PFF not to discuss his future before the World Cup finals although in a newspaper interview published yesterday he criticised his employers and spoke for the first time about his contact with the FA.

That appeared to be enough to bring the PFF to the table and last night they were celebrating holding onto their manager.

"We are very happy," said Madail.

While the wording of Scolari's statement, which was delivered without taking questions, may sound totally unequivocal, sources in Portugal say that he may have left himself room to change his mind yet again. However, the FA now feel that they cannot go back to a man who has been responsible for such a public humiliation.

The FA now face the question of: "Who next?" The most obvious candidate is McClaren whose Middlesbrough side staged a thrilling comeback in the Uefa Cup semi-final against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday night just as it looked like Scolari would get the job.

The Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, said after the game that he was sad for McClaren to miss out on the England job "because he wanted it so much" ­ he may now get it.

What he said: Scolari's statement yesterday

Portugal at this moment cannot cope with a coach negotiating with other federations ­ they don't really need it at the time being.

Yesterday, I talked with a few friends who helped in my decision. There were 20 reporters in front of my house ­ that was too much and I didn't like it all.

I have been in talks with the English FA and I want to thank the Portuguese Federation's president [Gilberto Madail] for giving them the chance to talk to them.

I am not and will not be the England coach, but I am pleased the English Federation [FA] remembered my name and I expect them to name the new coach in the days to come. It was an interesting offer with several interesting options and I thought about it for a long time.

I am committed to the Portuguese FA until the end of the World Cup and maybe longer. In the last few days, when I was not even the manager of England, my freedom was taken away from me and that is not the coaching I am used to. I don't want to be a part of it.

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