Scolari's first day spoiled by Lampard contract row
Wednesday 09 July 2008
He may have only referred to himself yesterday as the "So-so" One – rather than the Special One – but Luiz Felipe Scolari made it clear that he will take a ruthless approach to culling Chelsea's squad with up to six players set to leave this summer. However, Scolari insisted that he does not want Frank Lampard – or Didier Drogba – to be among those and said that the midfielder had told him that he was "happy" and wants to stay at the club for "many years".
Scolari's claim immediately placed Lampard and his agent, Steve Kutner, in an awkward position given the suggestion had been, from them, on Monday evening that the new manager had yet to speak to the player. Instead Scolari said he sought Lampard out on the first day of pre-season training. "I met him and I asked him," Scolari said. "He said to me that he wanted to stay. And I said 'OK, I'm happy'. It was not important for me how long he stays but I want him to stay and be happy and he said he was. Now it's a business negotiation for Lampard and the club."
That negotiation has proved, over the past two years, to be tortuous. This week alone has been pretty painful with Lampard's suitors Internazionale insisting they had faxed an offer for the 30-year-old – a claim which was refuted by Chelsea. By late on Monday Chelsea had indeed located a fax but said it only contained a request for talks. Chelsea went further yesterday stating that they would not be entering into negotiations with Inter no matter what was offered. Yet that refutation was then refuted by the Italians – who insisted they had lodged a €10m (£8m) bid. Confused? You should be.
What was clear also was that Lampard and Chelsea are now as far apart as ever. The player has no truck with Scolari – in fact he has been impressed by the manager and sought him out yesterday, after his comments – but is angry with the club. Lampard is keener than ever to leave as they continue to resist offering him a five-year deal so that he can finish his career at Chelsea.
If Chelsea's intransigence is genuine – and that's a big if – it means Lampard has four options: either put in a transfer request, push for more than the four years currently on offer from Chelsea, sign that deal or sit out the final season of his contract. Scolari indicated that he was prepared for the latter to happen and said he would rather it did than let Lampard, and the 20 goals a campaign he brings, go. "He has one year minimum with us. Minimum. Money is not my business," Scolari said. "My job is done. I have said I want him to stay. My business is on the pitch."
And he got down to that business yesterday with double training sessions, which sandwiched two hours of media briefings in which the 59-year-old Brazilian acquitted himself admirably speaking in English. He showed a sense of humour and a determination while also making clear that he feels equipped to deal with the special pressures of working for Roman Abramovich, or "Mr Roman" as he called him.
Scolari accepted that he "needed to win" – but added the same applied to every coach – although that's not quite true with Chelsea who have, he said, the "potential" to win every competition they entered and will treat the Carling Cup with equal importance as the Champions League. "For sure I need to win one or two or three competitions," he said, before dismissing suggestions that this was the greatest challenge he had faced. "It was more difficult in Brazil because we were at that time in a bad situation. Chelsea are not in a bad situation," said the man who won the World Cup with his country in 2002 before going on to coach Portugal.
In that role he was accused of advising Cristiano Ronaldo to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid. The notion received short shrift. "I never advised him to change clubs," Scolari said. "I want to stress that."
Scolari said he would turn to youth and revealed that he had told the squad on Monday that some were to be sold. "I want to work with 23, 24 or maximum 25 players," Scolari said. "Now I have 32. It's time to change. And the players know this. After that it's not my business – contracts, change clubs. That's for the players. Maybe some will say 'oh, but you didn't say this to me before'. But they can't say that because they all know. I only want to work with 25. Maximum." One of those, he said, would hopefully be Drogba who was – "Not 100 but 200 per cent" – part of his plans despite repeatedly expressing a desire to leave.
John Terry will remain as captain with Scolari revealing he had, in the past three years, voted for the central defender and Drogba as his choices "for best player in the world".
And as for the "So-so" one comment. Mourinho had called himself a "Special One" on his first day at Chelsea, so would Scolari, who has signed a two-year deal earning £6m-a-season, use the same title? "Yes, I am special for my friends, for my family and for my country," he said. "As a manager? So-so." Chelsea will hope he was only joking.
Bye, bye Bridge Six heading for exit
Up to six players may leave Chelsea this summer as Luiz Felipe Scolari has declared he wants to reduce the size of the squad, especially as there are likely to be two or three more new signings to add to the arrival of Deco. It also depends what happens with Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho whose futures are in doubt. Scolari claims he hasn't yet decided who will go but those most likely to depart include:
Tal Ben Haim
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