Mourinho may start exodus from Porto to Chelsea

Roman Abramovich is to poach all the backroom staff from Porto and at least two to three players as part of the deal to take Jose Mourinho to Chelsea.

The Russian billionaire has earmarked €70m (£48m) to buy the play-maker Deco, the right-sided midfielder Costinha and the right-back Paulo Ferreira to help smooth Mourinho's move to Stamford Bridge after the Champions' League final against Monaco on 26 May. Such signings would raise a doubt over the future of several expensive Chelsea players such as Joe Cole, Juan Sebastian Veron, Jesper Gronkjaer and Glen Johnson.

Even though the Porto coach is undoubtedly set to agree a £2m-a-year deal, he has reservations about the wisdom of joining Chelsea. Mourinho has made it clear he would prefer a move to Liverpool, for example, and, on Thursday afternoon, the Merseyside club tried to contact the 41-year-old and his appointed agent, Jorge Mendes, to discuss a move. Tottenham Hotspur are also monitoring the situation.

However, at the time Mourinho and Mendes, were holed up in Les Ambassadeurs, the Mayfair club of Abramovich's advisor, the Israeli "super-agent" Pini Zahavi. They were there to discuss terms.

Abramovich has made it clear to Mourinho - as per his demands - that he will employ his assistant manager, Baltemar Brito, the goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro and the fitness coach Rui Faria. More than that Mourinho has made it clear that he wants to take some players with him also. Chief among them is the naturalised Brazilian Deco, who will appear for Portugal in Euro 2004 and has been a talisman for Porto for the past three years.

Because of the scale of the deal, Abramovich and his advisors hope to steam-roll Mourinho into agreement. He undoubtedly wants to work in England and has hankered after a move to the Premiership ever since he was employed as a translator for Sir Bobby Robson a decade ago.

At the same time Porto will drive a hard bargain. They have already accused Chelsea of illegally approaching Mourinho and they claimed they were going to make an official complaint to Uefa, the European governing body, although that does not appear to have happened. Money, it seems, talks.

Claudio Ranieri, the man Mourinho is set to replace, was back-tracking yesterday just 72 hours after he admitted his stewardship at Chelsea had come to an end. "I would like to finish my job," Ranieri said ahead of today's encounter with Manchester United. "I have another three years on my contract. Why cannot I finish my job? I would like to finish my job but I'm not the owner.

"I hope I am here in August. I believe I will be here. Me and my players have made a very good job this season. If someone new comes in it will not be easy to improve this team. I started the foundations and the ground floor is ready. I would like to put the windows in the first floor."

Chelsea know that automatic qualification for next season's Champions' League is in their hands. Even if they lose today they can still finish second by beating Leeds United next weekend.

Yesterday, the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said that Ruud van Nistelrooy is going nowhere, despite fresh reports linking the Dutch striker with a move to Real Madrid.

Just seven days after Van Nistelrooy and Ferguson joined forces to state the striker would still be at Old Trafford next season, speculation has erupted in the Spanish capital that the striker is about to sign a contract with Real. There are even claims that high ranking officials of United and Real met on Wednesday to thrash out the deal, which could be completed within days.

However, senior figures at United dismissed that rumour as "nonsense". For good measure, Ferguson said: "The position is exactly the same. Ruud van Nistelrooy will still be here next year."

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