Jose Mourinho is due to arrive in London this morning to finalise his appointment as Chelsea's new coach. He will hold meetings with Roman Abramovich and the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, who were both in Milan yesterday where they had been expected to tell Claudio Ranieri that he had finally been sacked.
However, the Italian left the two-hour meeting, which was also attended by his agent Vincenzo Morabito, slightly bemused that his four-year tenure had not come to an end. "It was a very pleasant conversation," said one source, who added that Ranieri was merely consulted on transfer targets.
"But Claudio knows it's a fait accompli. It appears Chelsea are keeping him in place until they have finished arguing the terms [with Mourinho]."
Ranieri has no intention of forcing the issue, however, despite offers from other clubs because he does not want to jeopardise a £6m pay-off for the remaining three years of his contract. Ranieri wants to remain in England, preferably in London. As yet he has not held talks with the most likely candidates, Tottenham Hotspur.
Mourinho, meanwhile, finally confirmed publicly that he intends to join Chelsea. Fresh from his convincing triumph in the Champions' League final, the Porto coach told the Portuguese channel Sport TV: "I have several invitations in the bag, but there is one which I would very much like to accept, which is from Chelsea. I need to speak with the board of directors, and we will see."
Mourinho, according to sources, signed a pre-contract agreement with Chelsea two weeks ago. The deal, worth up to a staggering £16m over four years, was brokered by "super-agent" Pini Zahavi. "My future will be decided upon in the next few days," Mourinho, 41, insisted. "I have a contract that ties me to FC Porto and to no other club. There will be conversations over the next few days with FC Porto's full knowledge."
Reinaldo Teles, Porto's director of football, confirmed Mourinho's exit. "We will have a new coach, a big team and will continue to work towards winning more titles," he said yesterday.
Kenyon attended the final in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday evening and afterwards indicated that an announcement was imminent. "I think we've got to get things resolved next week and start planning for next season," he said. "This isn't a holiday period for us, this is about preparing for next season." Officially Chelsea simply said "watch this space".
Kenyon went on to pay tribute to Mourinho and Monaco's coach, Didier Deschamps, saying: "I think what you've got in this game are probably the two best young coaches in Europe. These guys are going to continue their careers, they've done tremendously well to get here as we know first-hand from one of them." Monaco, of course, knocked Chelsea out of the competition and Deschamps is due to join Juventus.
Mourinho's achievements at Porto are extraordinary. In the past two years he has won two league titles, the Portuguese Cup, the Uefa Cup and now the Champions' League even if Ranieri, for one, has previously belittled the competition he has faced domestically.
Mourinho is unlikely to arrive on his own at Chelsea. He has insisted that his backroom staff are also poached including his assistant, Baltemar Brito, the goalkeeping coach, Silvino Louro, and the fitness coach, Rui Faria.
In addition, he is urging Abramovich to strip the Porto team and appears to have won guarantees. In particular he wants the playmaker Deco, right-back Paulo Ferreira and the midfielder Costinha. There has even been talk of taking a fourth Porto player, the central defender Ricardo Carvalho. The acquisitions would cost at least £50m and raise huge question marks over the future of Chelsea players such as Joe Cole and Glen Johnson.
Cole yesterday said that he knew there would be a change of manager but that he intended to fight for his place. "I really want to make it work," he said. A further clear-out of players is already underway.
It had been thought that Abramovich was unimpressed by Mourinho when the two met after Monaco had beaten Chelsea last month. The Russian found the coach overconfident and Mourinho has since insisted that he will do things his way. It could make for a fiery, if lucrative, relationship.
Mourinho's appointment caps a remarkable ascent for someone who did not play football professionally and whose passage into the game started when he was employed as Sir Bobby Robson's translator when the former England manager was appointed coach at Sporting Lisbon more than a decade ago.
Abramovich and Kenyon also held talks yesterday with executives at AC Milan. Chelsea had expressed an interest in the striker Andriy Shevchenko but their hopes were dashed when he signed a new contract on Wednesday. Kenyon denied further transfers were discussed. "It has been a general meeting and we have not spoken about any player," he said.Reuse content