John Terry was furious last night at allegations by Claude Makelele that he was the catalyst for Jose Mourinho's controversial departure from Chelsea in September 2007. The England captain was considering legal action against Makelele after his former team-mate alleged in an autobiography that a row between Terry and Mourinho was the reason the Portuguese coach was sacked.
Makelele gave a whole new version of the events after Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Norwegian minnows Rosenborg in the Champions League on 18 September 2007, Mourinho's last game in charge of the club with whom he had won five trophies in three seasons, including back-to-back Premier League titles.
Last night, Terry and his advisers were forced to consult lawyers on the eve of Chelsea's FA Cup final against Everton today, to deny Makelele's allegations that the club captain had put in a transfer request on 19 September, 2007 which in turn had precipitated Roman Abramovich's shock dismissal of Mourinho.
In his autobiography Tout Simplement, Makelele claims that there was a row between Mourinho and Terry, after the manager had told his captain he was going to be dropped. Makelele alleges that Terry's immediate reaction was to ask for a transfer, which, according to the author, was too much for Abramovich who promptly asked Mourinho to clear his desk. And the former French midfielder – now with Paris St-Germain – hints that Mourinho might have even manufactured the clash as a way to hasten his own departure.
Makelele writes in his autobiography: "I got the news from a phone call from Didier Drogba. 'He'll be sacked tomorrow', he told me. I'm so surprised. Me, I thought Mourinho was practically untouchable.
"The next morning at Cobham, our new training centre situated 40 minutes west of London, it was chaos. There were photographers everywhere, journalists trying to get in touch with me – even helicopters flying over our heads.
"Most of the players were together in the changing rooms. Going in I met Rui [Faria] our physical trainer and asked him if everything was OK. 'No, no Claude, the rumours are true. The coach has been fired'. I asked him why and he explained that a lot of players had complained about him, notably John Terry. I then learnt that Mourinho had told the club's emblematic captain that he was going to be left on the bench for a few matches, in order to give him enough time to recover from a recent back operation he had undergone in the middle of last season.
"John, who didn't want to be a sub, let it be known that he was OK to play on. Mourinho insisted. He told him his [Terry's] level of performance was suffering because of his back problems and repeated clearly that he [Terry] would be replaced until told otherwise.
"He even pointed out that the central defence would from now on be Ricardo Carvalho and Alex. War had been declared. For John this was treason. He believed – rightly so in my opinion – that in giving his all in the second half of the previous season, even though he was in great pain, he deserved a bit more playing time in order to find his optimum playing level.
"Mourinho had provoked a clash too far. Had it been me, Ballack or Shevchenko it might have passed but if there is one person who is untouchable at Chelsea then it is John. And Mourinho knew."
Makelele goes on to suggest that Mourinho had manipulated the row with Terry to secure for himself a way to leave Chelsea as the relationship between manager and owner had turned horribly sour.
"So why take such a risk?" Makelele writes. "Because he'd had enough and was looking for a way out? As it was always, when John Terry let his discontent be known to Peter Kenyon [Chelsea chief executive] and asked him for an immediate transfer, Abramovich reacted immediately. The departure of Terry was totally unimaginable, from the point of view of the supporters, the players or the club owners. Mourinho was asked to pack his bags."
Last night a statement from Terry's lawyer said it was "categorically untrue" that Terry was "involved" with the "removal" of Mourinho from Chelsea. The statement continued: "We also confirm [should it even need confirming] that John has never asked to be transferred from Chelsea".
Makelele's revelations will hit a nerve with Chelsea, on today of all days. They have not won a trophy since Mourinho departed in 2007, and have got through three managers in the process. Temporary manager Guus Hiddink has gone some way to rebuilding the image of the club, which had sunk to new lows during the acrimonious leadership of the aggressive Mourinho.
He has demonstrated that it is possible to behave with dignity, despite explosive situation like the Champions League elimination to Barcelona three weeks ago. Heaven only knows what Mourinho would have had to say about the performance of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo had he still been in charge at Stamford Bridge.
But Hiddink is to quit after today's game, with Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti almost certain to replace him. But Chelsea have yet to discover a way to win quite like they did under Mourinho. Not all that long ago, it looked like Chelsea were going to dominate English football for a decade. It didn't work out that way, thanks to a combination of Chelsea's implosion and Manchester United's revival.
Terry spoke this week about how painfully he misses the buzz of lifting silverware, a feeling that he desperately wants to experience again this afternoon against Everton.
He said: "Honestly you can't describe to people when you lift that trophy, the buzz, the memories from the day, the build-up. Those kinds of things will live with me forever.
"I can tell you minute after minute of the finals I have won, and the big games we have won. And when you go a couple of years without doing that you lose that taste. The hunger gets even bigger and the desire to win trophies even more so."
Players plan fond farewell for Hiddink
Win or lose, Guus Hiddink will be making the sharpest of exits from Wembley Stadium. As of tonight he reverts to solely being coach of Russia and his presence is expected at tomorrow's Russian Cup final, between Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moskva, in Khimki, near Moscow.
Before the Dutchman departs, however, he will receive a farewell gift from the Chelsea squad. "There will be a little something from the lads, but it would be nice to give it to him after we've got the trophy," John Terry, the captain, said. "I can't tell you what it is in case he reads this. It's just a nice way to say thank you for all his hard work.
"A few of us, including myself, our form had dipped. Since the manager's come in our form is back to where it needs to be. He deserves a lot of credit for that. We've all asked him to stay but we realised we were wasting our breath after about the twentieth time of asking. From day one he said he owed it to the Russian side. He is a man of his word and we fully respect that."
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