Chelsea confirm end for Ranieri

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The Independent Online

The dead man is walking. Claudio Ranieri was yesterday finally sacked as Chelsea's head coach to make way for the arrival of Jose Mourinho from Porto.

The dead man is walking. Claudio Ranieri was yesterday finally sacked as Chelsea's head coach to make way for the arrival of Jose Mourinho from Porto.

An announcement on Mourinho is due to be made later today or tomorrow with Roman Abramovich having completed face-to-face talks over the weekend on his yacht, "Le Grand Bleu", which is moored at St Tropez. The meeting progressed so well that Mourinho, who flew to Nice on Friday, and Abramovich even drew up a list of possible transfer targets.

Presumably that will be different from the list Abramovich apparently discussed with Ranieri last week as the tortuous end to the Italian's four-year tenure at Stamford Bridge drew to a close. Although Chelsea have indicated that they will honour Ranieri's contract, which would mean a pay-off of £6m, negotiations were continuing last night. In a statement Chelsea said: "Claudio has done a first-class job for the club and paved the way for future success. We would like to wish Claudio all the best for the future. We are discussing the exact terms of his departure with him and his representatives."

One sticking point may be the next job that Ranieri takes, with Chelsea checking through the fine detail of his contract, possibly to try and reduce the scale of the settlement. The 52-year-old Italian will fly into London today from Rome and tomorrow will collect the Variety Club's Man of the Year at a lunch. He is determined to leave with his dignity intact and negotiations may start as early as today with other clubs who want to employ him.

Ranieri has made it clear he wishes to stay in the Premiership and an obvious move would be to Tottenham Hotspur.

Last night his agent Jon Smith said of Ranieri's departure: "We read the tea leaves a few weeks ago or even a few months" in reference to the clear intent of Chelsea's chief executive Peter Kenyon to bring in his own coach. Smith added: "He [Ranieri] is very proud of the job he has done but he is a little sad at not being able to complete the job." He went on: "We are assured he is a man in demand."

Meanwhile despite a statement from Porto's vice-president Fernando Gomes that no club had contacted them over Mourinho, who has two years left on his contract, Chelsea were in talks yesterday with the Portuguese champions and will pay compensation of around €1.5m (£1m). Porto held a board meeting and it is thought they intend to approach former Real Madrid coach Vicente Del Bosque.

Mourinho, 41, who agreed a four-year deal worth €24m (£4.1m a year), five times his current salary and the highest in domestic football, will not arrive on his own. He has all but secured the play-maker Deco for €20m (£14m) and the midfielder Costinho for between €8-10m (£5.5-£7m). A third deal, for right-back Paulo Ferreira, is being resisted while the midfielder Maniche may move to Chelsea instead. Porto will also lose much of their backroom staff including Mourinho's assistant Baltemar Brito, goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro and fitness coach Rui Faria.

In truth the writing has been on the wall for Ranieri - who referred to himself as the "dead man walking" at one press conference - ever since Abramovich bought Chelsea last summer and embarked in his amazing spending spree. Despite securing second place in the Premiership, over-hauling Manchester United in Chelsea's best finish for 49 years, and a place in the semi-finals of the Champions' League, it was not enough.

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