Luiz Felipe Scolari yesterday finally identified the Chelsea players he believes got him the sack in February and pointed the finger at Petr Cech, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.
The same players were part of a group whom Roman Abramovich took soundings from as he prepared to pull the plug on Scolari. By the time Scolari was sacked on 9 February, Drogba's relationship with the Brazilian was already at an all-time low, after he was left out of two squads in January.
Scolari told the Brazilian O Globo newspaper: "The real owners of football at the moment are the players. The coach, in most European clubs, has no strength to contradict them. The people sacked are always the coaches. The main players already know this. That was my problem at Chelsea. Drogba, Ballack and Cech did not accept my training methods or my demands." Scolari also warned Cristiano Ronaldo that he would encounter similar player power at Real Madrid – in the club's long-serving captain Raul but said he would complement Kaka. "The problem Real Madrid have is Raul," Scolari said. "He is a veteran and is still the boss in the dressing room, so woe betide anyone he doesn't like – including the coach.
"Kaka is an unusual player because of what he does both on and off the field. That guy is a strange jewel. Despite having gained big fame and money, he keeps doing his best on the pitch like a youngster. I am sure Cristiano Ronaldo and he will get on very well with each other. Cristiano has nothing to do with the conceited image everybody has of him. I think both of them will be big friends."
Scolari has since agreed to take over the Uzbekistan club Bunyodkor for the next 18 months, a return to his itinerant past as a club manager in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Japan before he won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.
He claimed that his former player Rivaldo had recommended he take the job on the rather flimsy basis that Uzbekistan's Under-20 team had "a few players who are very good on the ball". Scolari said: "My contract lasts one and a half years, but every six months we'll sit down and discuss things. Both they and I can decide not to continue. They want me to coach their national team but nothing is decided yet.
"Rivaldo, the big player of our [2002 Brazil] team, told me it was possible to do a very good job because he knows the Uzbek Under-20 team and he told me there are a few players who are very good on the ball, who have good futures. I'll be back [in Brazil] in one and a half years. I will work there as a coach for two more years and that's it. I'll change job or retire."