Mourinho makes instant return to Porto

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The draw for the Champions' League would seem to fit Jose Mourinho's self-image perfectly. Having given Porto the European Cup, the Uefa Cup and the Portuguese championship, he will return to demonstrate how far he has advanced since May.

The draw for the Champions' League would seem to fit Jose Mourinho's self-image perfectly. Having given Porto the European Cup, the Uefa Cup and the Portuguese championship, he will return to demonstrate how far he has advanced since May.

Pairing Chelsea with Porto was the highlight of yesterday's draw for the group stage in Monaco, although Henrik Larsson's return to Celtic with his new club Barcelona rivals it ­ at least in Glasgow. As a sideshow, there will be three fixtures recreating past European Cup finals: Ajax v Juventus, Barcelona v Milan and Bayer Leverkusen v Real Madrid.

The Porto squad that Mourinho developed has split apart since the night Monaco were overcome in Gelsenkirchen. Having lost Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho from their back four to Chelsea and seen Deco move to the Nou Camp, Porto are £35m wealthier off the pitch but rather poorer on it.

Mourinho would seem to have nothing to prove in the Estadio do Dragao but he was angered by the way some officials at Porto treated him once it became clear he would be leaving for Chelsea. "Before the final, people inside the club changed their behaviour towards me," he said. "These were people who were next to me for two and a half years, people who should think, 'This guy gave us a lot and we are in this final because of him'." There will be smiles when the two sides meet, but they are likely to be fixed.

The same might be said when Chelsea travel to Russia to play CSKA Moscow, a club in which their owner, Roman Abramovich, has invested $54m (£31m) as part of a three-year sponsorship deal.

The sport's European governing body, Uefa, yesterday announced that it would would investigate Abramovich's links with CSKA, owned by his close friend, Yevgeny Giner, and if there was a conflict of interest, only one would be allowed to compete.

Chelsea have refuted these suggestions and in a statement released yesterday said: "Chelsea is certain that Uefa and any other clubs in the Champions' League should be completely unconcerned by this matter. The situation is very clear. Mr Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea while Sibneft, a company in which he is one of many shareholders, is the shirt sponsor of CSKA Moscow.

"Mr Abramovich has no equity stake or any direct financial interest in CSKA."

William Gaillaird, Uefa's director of communications, said: "If it was found that Mr Abramovich had a controlling interest in Chelsea and CSKA Moscow, they could not both take part in the competition. He would have to decide which one."

Mourinho does not yet have to win the European Cup to satisfy his master; the Premiership would suffice for now. The same, however, cannot be said of Arsène Wenger. The Arsenal manager would not have needed to hear the club director, Danny Fiszman, say: "In order to really make our mark on the world of football, we have to win the Champions' League."

Of the five British clubs, Arsenal, one of the top seeds, have the easiest draw. They drew the weakest of the second seeds, Panathinaikos, who may have succeeded in ending their nine-year wait for a Greek title but were cannon fodder at Old Trafford last season, thrashed 5-0.

PSV Eindhoven, who have seen the bulk of their stars disappear to the Premiership this summer, are capable of surprises in European football, as Manchester United and Leeds have discovered, but Arsenal will have fond memories of the 4-0 rout in the Philips Stadion two years ago. Rosenborg have only once progressed beyond the group stages.

The draw has been kinder to United than to Liverpool, although Sir Alex Ferguson's assertion that he was pleased there were no long trips suggests he might like to be passed an atlas and shown where Istanbul, home of Fenerbahce, lies.

Group D is hardly straightforward. Lyon are French champions and European Cup quarter-finalists last season, Sparta Prague beat Lazio and held Chelsea, while in 1996 Fenerbahce became the first side ever to win a European tie at Old Trafford.

Liverpool, facing Deportivo La Coruña as the top-rated club in Group A, drew the worst possible third seed in Monaco, last season's finalists.

Perhaps getting his excuses in first, the Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, suggested his manager, Rafael Benitez's, immediate priority was not bringing European silverware to Anfield but closing the 30-point gap Arsenal established in the Premiership last season.

Comments