Abramovich 'stayed away from Anfield due to Mourinho rift'

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The Independent Online

The internal rift between Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovich is no closer to healing after it emerged last night that the club's Russian billionaire owner stayed away from Anfield on Saturday because of his disillusionment with his manager.

Sources have indicated that Abramovich has become so frustrated with Mourinho's behaviour that he could not bring himself to watch in person the crucial match against Liverpool, in which Chelsea were defeated 2-0.

While the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, gave an interview yesterday in an attempt to play down the dispute, those who know Abramovich well insist that his mood with Mourinho is not improving.

When the final whistle sounded on Liverpool's victory on Saturday, Andrei Shevchenko, kept on the substitutes' bench for 73 minutes while Chelsea chased a two-goal deficit, walked past his manager en route to the visitors' dressing room. The pair did not exchange a word, not even a glance, and Mourinho then proceeded to shake every other Chelsea player by the hand or slap them on the back regardless of their performance.

This moment said it all, and though Mourinho did not mention Shevchenko by name after the game, the inference was clear as the Chelsea manager explained his selection policy at Anfield. "There are players and the personality of each one is more adapted to the difficult moments, to the fight and to the effort we need from everybody," he said. "And some other personalities are weaker, are not so strong, and that is why I try to be surrounded by strong mentalities."

Kenyon yesterday described the dynamic at Stamford Bridge as a "healthy tension" as he insisted Mourinho would be given the respect and support he asked for last week and would still be dominating the Premiership next season.

"There is nothing happening that would suggest he is not going to be in charge," he said. "We respect the job he has done. We gave him a contract through to 2010. We have made it quite clear we wanted him to be the manager to achieve our long-term goals. We talked this week and he left my office knowing he is committed to Chelsea and we are committed to him.

"There is a healthy tension in the club and that is focused on moving Chelsea forward," Kenyon added. "Within Chelsea it is business as usual. On all the key issues, the manager, the owner, the chief executive and the board are involved. That will not change."

Kenyon said that the club were confident of agreeing new contracts with John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, and had not foisted Shevchenko or any other player on the manager, who at the weekend reiterated his call for a new centre-half.