Jose Mourinho has told his agent Jorge Mendes that he will listen to offers to leave Chelsea at the end of the season. Internazionale head the queue of clubs waiting to hire the disillusioned Chelsea manager - with the Italian club's owner Massimo Moratti already promising to top Mourinho's astonishing £5.2m-a-year pay deal at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho is in the middle of a fierce power struggle at Chelsea involving the running of the club and the signing of players. His unlikely ally is chief executive Peter Kenyon who he has clashed with in the past but they are believed to be pitted against Frank Arnesen, the club's director of youth development and scouting, and a powerful, but largely unknown, Russian contingent.
Roman Abramovich, the club's owner, is not directly involved. But the billionaire is understood to have grown frustrated with Mourinho especially following the run of results over Christmas when he had many of his VIP guests over to watch Chelsea's matches and some of the manager's outspoken comments in which he has blamed others for his team's indifferent performances.
Those comments continued on Wednesday evening with the draw against Wycombe Wanderers in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. Afterwards, Mourinho, with his team suffering through a string of injuries and suspensions, declared he had been vetoed in his attempts to sign new players.
The tipping point for Mourinho was Chelsea's refusal to sanction a swap deal he had personally brokered with Shaun Wright-Phillips moving to Aston Villa in return for the Czech striker Milan Baros. Instead, Chelsea wanted to sell Wright-Phillips, who they bought for £21m from Manchester City, to West Ham United for £10m. But the player has refused to move.
Mourinho is also furious that Chelsea refused to sanction a deal for Oguchi Onyewu, the American central defender who has interested Fulham, even though the Standard Liege player would have cost just £1m. Chelsea have also blocked a move by Mourinho for Jorge Andrade, the Portuguese defender who plays for Deportivo La Coruña.
Instead, the Premiership champions and the Dutch axis controlled by Arnesen tried to impose upon Mourinho the Brazilian defender Alex, who is currently playing for PSV Eindhoven but who is actually owned by Chelsea. Mourinho insisted that he did not want the player.
It is also believed that the Chelsea representatives have already made tentative approaches to Guus Hiddink, the coach of the Russian national team, and to Juventus coach Didier Deschamps, to replace Mourinho. Both, however, are understood to have turned down Chelsea's overtures. For now at least.
Mourinho is also disillusioned with the attitude of Andrei Shevchenko. The Ukrainian, a friend of Abramovich, joined Chelsea last summer for almost £31m with Mourinho's approval but a source close to the manager said last night that "Jose now thinks he has just come for a holiday".
At the same time, associates close to Abramovich believe that Mourinho is guilty for Shevchenko's poor form and blame it partly on the system that the striker has been made to play under at Chelsea. It is also understood that such is Abramovich's concern at the situation regarding Shevchenko that he wants to employ a motivational coach to work directly with the 30-year-old. This move has also been blocked by Mourinho.
Mourinho is also understood to have stopped attempts to remove one of his assistants, Steve Clarke, from Chelsea's coaching staff and replace him with a coach more closely associated with Arnesen and his Dutch contacts. " Jose is under great pressure," a friend of Mourinho said last night. "But he is trying very hard to hold it together until the end of the season." Indeed Mourinho is believed to have said he will quit immediately if his coaching staff is changed.
The gathering sense of crisis at Chelsea has not gone unnoticed around the rest of Europe. Inter are set to re-state their interest in the coach but will face competition from other clubs in Italy and in Spain, with Real Madrid also alerted. However, Mourinho's agent, Mendes, has been told to keep all offers under wraps until May.
The crisis at Chelsea has grown since the departure of William Gallas at the end of the summer transfer window. Mourinho insisted that the French defender should not be allowed to leave and if he did so then Robert Huth should stay. In the end, both left, leaving the Chelsea squad vulnerable.
Injuries, especially to John Terry, Joe Cole and Petr Cech, and suspensions, with Ashley Cole and Claude Makelele the latest to miss out, have bit hard. And despite Mourinho's faith in young talents such as John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou, Chelsea have seen little return from the pair for the £20m they spent on them. One player Mourinho does not blame is Michael Ballack, with the manager believing that although the German who he regarded as an ideal second choice to his main target Steven Gerrard has not yet delivered, he is being made a scapegoat for Chelsea's problems.