Thaksin Shinawatra has offered Luiz Felipe Scolari £3.25m a year to manage Manchester City and, in a move which has echoes of the Football Association's approach to the Brazilian ahead of the 2006 World Cup, he wants an answer before Scolari leads Portugal into the European Championship next month.
The approach to Scolari came, via a Brazilian agent, from Srisumrid Jack Taweesuk, City's executive director, whose attempts to lure the Portugal national manager are understood to have included a promise that money will be available to Scolari to buy "the players that he wants".
Though some in Portugal doubt the 59-year-old's willingness to trade his immense personal following in the country for Sven Goran Eriksson's job in Manchester, the sums of money on offer do seem to be attractive to him. The noises from Portugal last week were that Scolari was reluctant to remove his two sons, Fabricio and Leonardo, from further education in Lisbon and that the proximity of Spain's La Liga was therefore more of an attraction to him. But there was a suggestion from sources close to Scolari yesterday that Leonardo, his eldest son and a law student, could benefit from studying in Britain. Fabricio, it is thought, would stay with Scolari's wife in Lisbon if he took the job.
Taweesuk, the power-broker at Eastlands in Thaksin's absence and the director who last month entertained Ronaldinho's brother and agent, Roberto de Assis, at Eastlands, is understood to have offered Scolari a sum of just over €330,000 (£260,000) a month.
City need a quick decision to prevent the kind of rapid last-minute buying which characterised Eriksson's late arrival last summer. But it was not clear yesterday whether Scolari is ready to commit himself to Eastlands before Euro 2008. "He is in Lisbon preparing for the [Euro 2008] tournament. He has never accepted such offers before a tournament," one source close to the Brazilian said yesterday.
Thaksin clearly believes that his offer – £1m a year more than Eriksson is currently being paid and a salary which takes him near to the salary bracket of Sir Alex Ferguson – can secure Scolari's services but City's Thai contingent may have their work cut out persuading Scolari to join them after the peremptory way in which Eriksson is being pushed aside, despite lifting City to their best Premier League finish.
Scolari also faces an indignant Manchester public, whatever funds Thaksin manages to muster – with a large percentage of his riches likely to be frozen in Thailand until after the summer. Eriksson has resisted any inclination to discuss a predicament which might mean him leading City on their forthcoming tour of Thailand and China while Scolari makes up his mind about the job. But a show of support for him by City fans at Anfield on Sunday certainly seem to have had an impact. "I don't get tired of hearing my name," Eriksson said. "The fans' backing made me emotional. It raised the hairs on the backs of my hand and made me freeze. I thank them all. I don't think I have ever felt so popular without winning anything but I have felt their warmth since I arrived at the club. They were magnificent."
The latest round of machinations at City have created a remarkable new chapter in the intertwining careers of Eriksson and his old nemesis Scolari. The managers both have homes in the affluent Lisbon district of Cascais. Despite eliminating Eriksson's England sides from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, with his Brazilian and Portugal sides respectively, it was Scolari who offered words of support for Eriksson after the 2002 semi-final. "He proves managers are still crucial to getting the best out of players," Scolari said.
Scolari's aversion to the British media – the reason he gave for not taking the England job – could lead him to think twice now. A manager more motivated by money than most, he would also need a substantial pay package. On top of his estimated current £2.7m salary – £1.5m of which is paid by the Portuguese Football Federation, the rest by a series of major corporate sponsorships – he travels to Africa and South America for seminars and speaking engagements which are also lucrative. The international football scene allows him time for those engagements and City's Thai owners will be left under no illusion about their need to make good the loss of that income stream.
City are unwilling to discuss Eriksson's situation ahead of Saturday's last Premier League game at Middlesbrough, other than to say that Thaksin – as owner of the club – is "in contact" with City.