Chelsea's unseemly row with defender William Gallas appears to be escalating after manager Jose Mourinho accused the Frenchman of a lack of respect.
Gallas infuriated Mourinho by failing to turn up for Chelsea's pre-season training camp here, choosing instead to extend his holiday.
He has already been warned to expect a club fine of up to £80,000 and has seen his lucky No 13 squad number taken away and handed to Michael Ballack.
Mourinho said: "Am I upset with Gallas? Well, we are upset, not me personally. We are upset because we are a strong family, a strong group and a lack of respect in the group is something we don't enjoy."
Mourinho's comments are unlikely to improve his relationship Gallas, who has a year remaining on his contract at Chelsea but insisted in May that he wanted to leave to join Milan.
Chelsea say there is still a £70,000-a-week, four-year contract offer on the table and hope talks can begin again next week in an attempt to persuade him to stay. But Gallas is growing increasingly frustrated with his treatment by the club and his agent Pierre Frelot refuses to confirm he will stay in London next season.
"I don't want to comment on that question," Frelot said, before defending Gallas's position. "He needed to have more rest because of the World Cup and that is the reason why he was away a bit longer. Maybe there was a bit of misunderstanding between both parties. That is the reason why we will have a meeting although it has not been set up. We will meet the directors of Chelsea next week."
Gallas is expected to train on his own at Cobham today before meeting up with the rest of the squad on Monday, although at present he still officially does not have a squad number. "That is another problem," Frelot said. "We were not informed of any change."
Meanwhile, Chelsea unveiled John Obi Mikel here yesterday to mark the end of a two-year battle for his signature. The 19-year-old Nigerian central midfielder is regarded as one of the best young talents in the world but has not played for almost a year because of a contract wrangle between Chelsea, Manchester United and Lyn Oslo.
The player claimed he was forced into signing a deal with United in May 2005 and received death threats as the row got out of hand.
Fifa, the world governing body, was asked to intervene and although Chelsea were never part of the investigation, they did eventually agree to pay Manchester United £12m and Lyn Oslo £4m for the player's signature.
"I always though it was going to be like this, ending happily with me coming to Chelsea because it's where I want to play," Mikel said. "It's where I've been wanting to play for a long time. I'm very happy it's all ended now so I can now play for the club of my dreams.
"It was difficult and sometimes I got depressed, but you just need to move on because that's football. Mentally it made me strong."Reuse content