Chelsea set to make Mourinho the world's richest manager

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho was last night released from his contract at Porto and will be presented as Chelsea's head coach at a press conference this morning. That had originally been scheduled for yesterday afternoon but was delayed as talks dragged over the fine detail of a four-year contract which would potentially make Mourinho the highest-paid manager in world football.

Jose Mourinho was last night released from his contract at Porto and will be presented as Chelsea's head coach at a press conference this morning. That had originally been scheduled for yesterday afternoon but was delayed as talks dragged over the fine detail of a four-year contract which would potentially make Mourinho the highest-paid manager in world football.

Chelsea insist there is no significant reason for the delay and Mourinho, and his agent Jorge Mendes, have proved headstrong negotiators throughout. The coach, in particular, has been trying to carve out guarantees on the freedom he will enjoy on transfers and whom he will take with him from the European Cup-winners.

Last night, Porto announced that they had cancelled the final two years of Mourinho's deal with them after agreeing a compensation package with Chelsea. As part of the deal the two clubs have signed an agreement by which Porto will effectively act as a feeder club for Chelsea, who will be given first option, for five years, on their young players in return for financing their discovery and training.

Mourinho will be paid €6m (£4.1m) a year plus €1.5m (£1m) in bonuses. They would be triggered if he repeats the success he enjoyed at Porto in winning the championship and the Champions' League.

Yesterday Mourinho received an endorsement from Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, who said that the 41-year-old was the only candidate for the job. "He is the only one left," Abramovich told reporters in Moscow a day after sacking Claudio Ranieri. "I hope the talks have entered their final stage," he told the Russian news agency Interfax.

But as matters progressed with Mourinho, they were dragging with Ranieri's advisors who are insisting that he receives the £6m he is due in basic salary for the three remaining years of his contract.

However, although Chelsea claim they will honour his contract, they are trying to agree a reduced settlement because they argue that Ranieri will walk straight into another job. Under employment law they feel their argument has some justification.

Yesterday, after the resignation of Rafael Benitez, who is set to join Liverpool, the Italian was strongly linked with his former club Valencia, where he spent two seasons. Chelsea had hoped to have settled matters with Ranieri before unveiling his replacement. However, that now seems unlikely and talks will continue for the next few days.

Ranieri yesterday received a ringing endorsement from the Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard. "In the three years I've been at Chelsea, Claudio has done loads for me," he said. "He gave me a chance, and without that, who knows where I would be? He is a very honourable and dignified man."

However, Lampard, who is actually Mourinho's favourite Chelsea player and is due to be offered a new, hugely improved contract, added: "It's a difficult situation but the club is the be-all and end-all. Managers and players move on. What's made it difficult is that it [speculation over Ranieri's position] has lingered over a whole season." At least that has now come to an end.

Mourinho, his wife and two children flew into Heathrow airport late yesterday morning from Lisbon and were met by Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief executive. This time there was no cloak and dagger approach - although Mourinho said simply "No comment. You'll have to wait a little bit" when asked if he was joining Chelsea. The group then travelled to Stamford Bridge with the intention of holding a press conference later in the afternoon.

Last night, Chelsea sources insisted that there was no significant reason for the delay as talks continued at the stadium. "There's a lot to go through," one said. Not least the fact that Mourinho wants to poach up to five members of his backroom staff including his assistant, Baltemar Brito, and the fitness coach, Rui Faria. All five are keen to move.

Kenyon spent all day Monday in Portugal in talks with Porto executives to negotiate a compensation package for Mourinho and his team. That has now been agreed and is thought to run to more than €2.5m (£1.75m). Kenyon had also hoped to have dealt with the proposed transfers of three Porto players - the right-back Paulo Ferreira, the playmaker Deco and the midfielder Costinha.

All three players have expressed an interest in joining Mourinho. In reality Kenyon managed to make an opening bid for Paulo Ferreira, which was quickly dismissed. Another possible target, the defender Ricardo Costinha, is set to join Internazionale.

Porto usually have to sell at least one or two players a season to balance the books but realise that after their Champions' League success many of their players are in demand. They want to exact the best prices they can, especially from Chelsea.

In a statement to the Portuguese stock exchange Porto confirmed that Mourinho was free to join Chelsea. The statement added: "As part of the agreement ... Porto announce the establishment of a partnership with Chelsea for a period of five years, with exclusivity in the Portuguese market, with respect to the detection, training and promotion of young talent."

After today's 10am press conference Mourinho and his family are due to go on holiday to Brazil before returning for Euro 2004 which, of course, is being held in Portugal. He is contracted to do a newspaper column, for the sports paper O Jogo, throughout the tournament. Whether he honours that deal remains to be seen.

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