Pressure builds on Mourinho to buy big

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho will be told by Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea hierarchy that he must buy a striker from the very top tier of world football this summer to make sure that the Russian billionaire does not have to go another season without winning the European Cup - the trophy he covets the most. As the club assess the fallout from another Champions' League exit, the Chelsea manager's "no superstars" transfer policy is under threat.

While the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, moved quickly to emphasise the club's support for Mourinho, and the club captain, John Terry, urged his team-mates to complete a domestic Premiership and FA Cup Double, there was no suggestion that the manager's position is under immediate threat. However, after a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Barcelona, Mourinho can have little argument with his club when they tell him that this summer they want to buy a blue-riband striker to provide the inspiration that was lacking at the Nou Camp.

Chelsea have tried, and failed, to sign Milan's Andrei Shevchenko and Adriano of Internazionale in the past but they are still both possible targets for the world's richest football club. Ruud van Nistelrooy, who is unsettled at Manchester United, would be a much longer shot and Barcelona have already said that Ronaldinho is not for sale.

The position of Samuel Eto'o has been monitored by Chelsea and he may yet be the most realistic target among the world's greatest forwards.

Although Mourinho has resisted all previous attempts to interfere with his transfer policy, the flatness of his side's performance on Tuesday will make it hard for him to make a case for Didier Drogba continuing as the side's leading striker after he was substituted before the hour. Mourinho's switch to 4-4-2 was a brave move but playing Arjen Robben in an unfamiliar role as the deeper striker instead of Eidur Gudjohnsen - a natural in that position - had many seasoned Chelsea watchers puzzled.

With the arrival of midfielder Michael Ballack looking increasingly likely in the summer, Mourinho will also have to find possibly two strikers and a left-back after the failure of Asier del Horno. Relations with Eto'o appear to have improved - he said that the Chelsea manager had conducted himself in an "educated" way after the game - but it was Buck whose endorsement will be more crucial.

"Jose really believes in what he's doing so I wouldn't change anything about him," Buck said. "I wouldn't personally tell him to change anything. He is what he is and I like it. He is a superb coach, he's a very kind considerate human being, very family-orientated. He really cares about the well-being of his players. He doesn't treat them as chattels or meat. He looks at them as human beings and he's trying to do the best for them."

Terry's admission that the pain of elimination "gets worse and worse," was the most graphic description of the frustration at another year in which Chelsea have come up short. Just reaching the knock-out rounds is a step back from the previous two years, when they reached the semis. "I didn't think the feeling could get any worse, but year after year we keep getting knocked out and that's getting worse," he said. "We're devastated and I don't know what to say."

Terry's comments about the attackers at Barcelona's disposal were telling. "Ronaldinho was the difference between the two sides, you look at all their players like him and Deco," he said. "I thought Deco was great on the ball. [Also] Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Henrik Larsson. I thought we could have got at them a bit more, but we didn't do it.

"It is disappointing coming here losing, but we have to pick ourselves up like we had to do last year and go again in the Premiership - we have to do that," Terry added. "We need six more wins now. We still need six wins. It is in our hands. A Premiership and FA Cup Double would be very special for the players. I think we deserve it for the way we have played this season.

"We have to go again next year, it seems like déjà vu, I just do not want to feel this again and the lads are the same. I think these lads can win this some day. When you look at the ambition of Mr Abramovich, the manager, certainly the players, you know we can. When you look at the players' faces they are devastated and we are very determined to go on and win the Champions' League. Hopefully, that comes sooner rather than later."

Yesterday, meanwhile, Chelsea were charged by the FA with "failing to ensure that their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion", following last weekend's game against West Bromwich, who have been told they have no case to answer.

l The Barcelona striker Lionel Messi will be out of action for a month, missing the Champions' League quarter-finals with a muscle injury. The 18-year-old Argentinian limped off midway through the first half of the Champions' League second-leg draw against Chelsea.

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