How Mourinho triumphed in risky game of corridor power

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The Independent Football

Just after 11pm at Stamford Bridge and the crowds have drifted joyously away following Chelsea's 4-2 victory over Bayern Munich. Jorge Mendes slips through the entrance to the Chelsea Village Hotel. A few minutes later and Peter Kenyon also rounds the corner, past the old Shed End, but heads in the opposite direction for the VIP car park.

Just after 11pm at Stamford Bridge and the crowds have drifted joyously away following Chelsea's 4-2 victory over Bayern Munich. Jorge Mendes slips through the entrance to the Chelsea Village Hotel. A few minutes later and Peter Kenyon also rounds the corner, past the old Shed End, but heads in the opposite direction for the VIP car park.

The talks between the two have been all but complete. They also know that the new contract being finalised for Jose Mourinho means a pay rise of more than £1m a year, taking his annual salary to an eye-popping £5.2m, and a five-year deal for the Chelsea manager. It reveals a shift in power which confirms Mourinho and not Kenyon, the chief executive, as the more important man at the club and also signifies Mendes, Mourinho's agent, as an increasingly influential force in his own right. There is no one bigger than Mourinho at Chelsea, and not just because there is no one who will be more highly paid.

It was always an unequal contest. Ever since Mourinho had threatened to walk, even if he didn't really want to, Kenyon knew that his best gambit was to allow the crisis to run its course and to wait for the inevitable intervention of Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich. That came last Monday, following a call to fly Mendes over from Portugal, after it was made clear that Mourinho's threats, which had surfaced the Friday before and which exploded with Chelsea's refusal to appeal his two-match touchline ban imposed by Uefa, were real. It didn't help that Eugene Tenenbaum, Abramovich's most trusted lieutenant, his fixer, who has a good working relationship with Kenyon, and the man who could have quickly smoothed things, was not around.

Abramovich rapidly made his decision. And his decision was to give Mourinho exactly what he wanted. It wasn't a slight on Kenyon, but merely the affirmation of what everyone at Chelsea expected. Mourinho is in charge and "Mr A", as Abramovich is known, has backed him. And the reason why is simple. Mourinho is a winner and Abramovich wants nothing more than to win. "At the end of the day PK [Peter Kenyon] realises how seriously Mr A takes it all," says one source. "So what else could he do?" Indeed, Mourinho has now been handed the most incredible of mandates. No transfer target will be refused, no resource denied. If a winter training camp needs to be established on the Algarve, for instance, it will be. If Mourinho wants to rip up his squad and start again (which he doesn't) then the cheques will be written. "He can have the money for whatever he wants," a source says.

Although the Uefa ban, following the incident in Barcelona involving Frank Rijkaard and Anders Frisk, was the final straw, Mourinho has been unhappy for some time. But, then again, as one of Mourinho's aides admits, happiness is a relative concept for this most intense of serial achievers, who knows that he too has made mistakes, partly because of the clash of cultures. Even with the new contract Mourinho is, the aide says, happier rather than happy. Before that, a litany of complaints emerged - from how Mourinho feels implicated by Chelsea in the Ashley Cole affair to the silence coming from the top following jibes by Arsène Wenger that Chelsea lacked "moral leadership". Mourinho's complaints were calculated for maximum effect.

Mourinho was even exasperated when he read the comments from Bruce Buck on the back page of The Independent the day after the Uefa ban was announced, in which the Chelsea chairman declared the hearing "full and fair" and said it had been blown out of all proportion. The manager doesn't know the chairman well, believes he is not a big enough figure in football and was unhappy that Buck, rather than Kenyon and Chelsea's director of communications, Simon Greenberg, went to Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Mourinho felt, not for the first time, that the club were not backing him and Buck's remarks added to that feeling, especially as he drew away from an appeal. It didn't help that Mourinho was told that The Independent had quoted Buck out of context. Mourinho knew the newspaper had not.

That Friday, stories started to surface in Portugal - on websites and then picked up by television. At first they were hard to verify, partly because Chelsea officials themselves believed they were simply April Fool jokes, even if they were second item on the running order of the news, after the Pope's illness. By the end of the evening it was clear that Mourinho was, indeed, unhappy. It wasn't until Sunday that the story began to truly gather pace, and although Mourinho's associates made it clear that he wanted to stay, they were not adverse to mentioning that the support he felt he lacked would be forthcoming at a club like Internazionale.

Mourinho would be a fool to leave. And he certainly isn't that. He is headstrong, belligerent, passionate but, not yet, fabulously wealthy. Chelsea will give him that wealth and that canvas for success. Then he can move on. His profile would not be higher in Milan or Madrid, and at Chelsea he has freer rein, a clearer run.

Although Mourinho's supporters insist the dispute was not about money or his contract, it is clear that a new deal was always going to be the resolution. Chelsea just wanted, not unreasonably, to wait until the season's end. Mourinho didn't want to do that. He will also be given a greater say in the club's policies in return for cooling his own outbursts. It is also not surprising that, after negotiations were complete, a fuller picture of what happened in Barcelona has emerged and the dispute with Uefa continued.

The irony for Kenyon is that the support Mourinho complains he has lacked really should be coming directly from Abramovich in the first place. But that is not Roman's way, and into that vacuum has stepped The Special One. He is a big enough figure to fill it. But also a dangerous one.

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