Mourinho culls Duff to retain quality control

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho confirmed yesterday that Damien Duff is set to leave Chelsea - and claimed that the Irish winger had pushed for the move. He also said that Asier del Horno was likely to return to Spain as part of an overhaul of the Premiership champions' squad which will make it even smaller, reducing the number of senior outfield players to just 16.

"Why change?" Mourinho said. "I had a situation last season where I lost a player I liked very much in Tiago, for example. Why? Because he was afraid of not having enough chances to play. This season there is a chance we lose another, a player I like, in Damien Duff. Why? Because he is afraid of not having so many matches as he wishes. So I think that is the reality."

With an even smaller squad, Mourinho said, he hoped to keep his remaining players happy. "When you have a squad of such high quality, if you have quality and at the same time high numbers some players find it really difficult to face," he explained.

"We will have top quality but short numbers, so everybody plays and everybody knows they will have a lot of chances to play." Mourinho's intent - if it is seen through - would mean that Robert Huth will still leave, and Middlesbrough have rekindled their interest, while either Shaun Wright-Phillips or, more probably, Hernan Crespo will depart.

When the Chelsea manager arrived in England two summers ago he said he wanted "two players for every position and no more". Now, he declared, he had changed his mind and was turning to "multifunctional players" who could cover a number of roles.

"Because we have in the squad five or six players easily adapted to different positions, it is a 20-player squad but with more options than two players for each position," Mourinho said. That 20 will include, he added, four younger players - the new signings Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel plus Lassana Diarra and a "kid from the academy we can bring up".

It is also likely to include Ashley Cole. Mourinho would not be drawn on Chelsea's interest in the Arsenal left-back, but added: "Ashley Cole is a good player. We are connected with every good left-back in European football so we have to wait. At this moment, we have Wayne Bridge and Del Horno. Ashley Cole is an Arsenal player."

Chelsea are also close to discovering whether Roberto Carlos will join them - he is due to meet Real Madrid's new coach, Fabio Capello, and sporting director, Predrag Mijatovic, today to decide his future.

Mourinho said he had had a two-hour meeting with Duff and, although "we love him", he said the player, who cost £17m three years ago, had opened his "heart" and wanted to go. That differs from what sources close to Duff have said, claiming he has always wanted to stay and had pushed for a new contract. Duff has attracted a bid of £7m from Tottenham Hotspur, who have been told he will not leave for less than £11m, although there appears to be growing interest from other Premiership clubs.

Mourinho, however, admitted Duff was not a player he was desperate to keep - unlike Arjen Robben, who will stay at Chelsea, he said, "100 per cent for sure".

Mourinho is also fighting to keep William Gallas, although he did not know whether the defender would remain for one year, the time remaining on his contract, or five, the new deal he has been offered and on which he is still stalling. "When he comes back from his holiday, and he joins us, and maybe a couple of days after that we can tell you," he said.

Mourinho, who was speaking at the launch of Chelsea's new kit, also said he did not want to plunder Italy for players affected by the corruption scandal. He said he wanted to "show respect for a difficult situation". Even so Chelsea have asked about Juventus' Gianluca Zambrotta, but he appears likely to move to Milan or Barcelona.

Mourinho also defended Frank Lampard, who faced criticism for his form in the World Cup. "I prefer to say the team looked tired, not Frank Lampard individually," Mourinho said. "It's not fair to analyse one player when the team was not a happy team."

Mourinho attacked other managers, such as Liverpool's Rafael Benitez with Steven Gerrard, who have pushed for their own players to be named the new England captain. "If everyone says that, we are not helping Steve McClaren," Mourinho said. "He knows the players. McClaren needs that space. He needs support and people not to push him for a decision. He will have my support."

It is not just Mourinho's squad that is "shorter". "You look at my haircut," he said. "I am ready for the war." The rest of the Premiership has been warned.

Sweet 16: Who would make the cut

Possible Squad

1 Paulo Ferreira

2 Geremi

3 Ricardo Carvalho

4 John Terry

5 Ashley Cole (if signed from Arsenal)

6 William Gallas

7 Wayne Bridge or Roberto Carlos

8 Michael Essien

9 Claude Makelele

10 Frank Lampard

11 Michael Ballack

12 Joe Cole

13 Shaun Wright Phillips or Hernan Crespo (latter more likely to leave)

14 Arjen Robben

15 Andrei Shevchenko

16 Didier Drogba

Probably Leaving

Damien Duff, Robert Huth, Asier del Horno

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