The decision last night by Roman Abramovich to alter his schedule and come to London a day early is the clearest sign yet as to how deep the crisis enveloping Chelsea is. Abramovich will certainly have hoped that there was no need for him to intervene but that is exactly what he has had to do.
It also confirms that, despite attempts by the club last night to state to the contrary, the complaints of manager Jose Mourinho have not been fully dealt with. Things still have to change and he is still angry. It has subsided a little from the weekend, but it is still there and it amounts to a crisis that has been months in the making.
In such times, Mourinho, more than most men, surrounds himself with those he trusts. And so yesterday it was his agent, Jorge Mendes, who did the talking for him in a meeting with Chelsea executives while today Mourinho's oldest friend in football, his assistant Baltemar Brito, will speak at the press conference ahead of tomorrow's Champions' League tie against Bayern Munich. Mourinho will be otherwise engaged with Abramovich.
Mendes, a Porto-based agent, handled the highly-lucrative negotiations which took Mourinho to Chelsea and has been richly praised by his client for his honesty. Although he is understood to have come to London at the desperate request of Chelsea to try to resolve the festering dispute, Mourinho did not attend the meeting and is believed to have said, for now, he does not want to know its details. Instead he concentrated solely on preparing his players for tomorrow's game. After that he may well release a statement. It could be explosive if he is not appeased and if the tie goes badly wrong.
Brito, meanwhile, is an imposing figure. Born in Brazil he has lived his life in Portugal, first playing as a central defender for teams coached by Mourinho's father Felix before joining Mourinho in London. He is likely to speak instead of Mourinho and, crucially, also Steve Clarke who is usually the deputy on such occasions but who is deeply embroiled in the saga that led to the Uefa ban.
And it is that ban, and the way Chelsea have handled it, that has tipped the balance and led to Mourinho going public, through trusted sources, with his unhappiness. Not that he wants to leave Chelsea. Far from it. But he has shown that he is prepared to go and no-one at the club should be in any doubt about that.
What he does want is for his complaints to be listened to. He wants action. He wants the support of chief executive Peter Kenyon and chairman Bruce Buck, both of whom he thinks have let him down this season. Mourinho wants to feel that they are working, passionately, as a team. At present too much of that burden, Mourinho contends, is falling upon him alone.
Mendes was there to help deliver the message although it helps that he was also able to remind the Chelsea executives that Mourinho remains a man in demand. Some of Europe's biggest clubs are understood to have been in contact, with tentative enquiries as to whether Mourinho would be keen to move. However, Mendes is not thought to be demanding an improved contract or making threats. He wants reassurances.
If he does not get them Mourinho remains prepared to act and although Chelsea also spent time yesterday trying to placate him directly, he is still annoyed. Annoyed, for example, it was Buck, a man he barely knows, who went to the Uefa hearing in Switzerland. That was to receive the verdict on Chelsea's complaints over whether or not Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard had gone into the room of referee Anders Frisk at the Nou Camp. Mourinho believed that Buck did not have the necessary status in world football and that his appearance sent out the wrong messages. He believes Chelsea should have "stuck together" and even though he did not see Rijkaard and Frisk himself he was prepared to rely on the testimonies of Clarke, and Chelsea's security chief Les Miles.
The incident, and his belief that Clarke should subsequently have been allowed to hold his own press conference to clear up the matter, forms part of a series of complaints. Mourinho is also angry that he was implicated in the Ashley Cole tapping-up row, which he blames on Kenyon, and that the club has refused to announce the signing of a left-back who has already, apparently, agreed to join next season. He believes this would have eased the pressure on them from the Premier League.
Mourinho was also annoyed by the silence from Chelsea after Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, accused them of lacking "moral leadership". He also says they should have defended their position in the blood-spinning row following suggestions that they are using illegal and unproven methods.
Mourinho does not want to leave Chelsea and there is a clash of cultures partly at the heart of his dispute. He is used to working in Spain and Portugal where clubs are run by vocal presidents who react quickly. That system does not operate in England.
Mourinho is also strong-willed and has walked out on clubs in the past. Chelsea must realise that he could be willing to do so again.Reuse content