Chelsea have built a near unbreakable team on the pitch and appeared to have the perfect set-up off it, but a crack appears to be opening in the Stamford Bridge edifice as the strong personalities at the top of the two arms of the empire appear to be at odds for the first time.
Jose Mourinho was brought in to turn Roman Abramovich's millions into trophies, but the Portuguese coach likes to run the whole show. He left Benfica five years ago because he did not think the board backed him, and that is apparently what he now thinks about the Chelsea board. Reports emanating from Mourinho-friendly sources in Portugal suggested the European Cup-winning coach was thinking of walking out on Chelsea in summer because the club did not challenge the punishment imposed by Uefa, the European game's governing body, over comments he made after the first leg of their Champions' League tie against Barcelona.
Mourinho, who was fined £9,000, must watch both legs of the quarter-final against Bayern Munich from the stand for bringing the game into disrepute by claiming that Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona's coach, had influenced the now retired referee, Anders Frisk, during the half-time interval. Chelsea were fined £22,000. Mourinho, who has a two-year contract, seems to have used contacts back home who have promoted his views in the past to help him to put on a show of strength.
Chelsea, who moved nearer to the Premiership title with yesterday's 3-1 victory at Southampton, dismissed the reports, which appeared on 1 April, as an April Fool's Day prank; the joke may be on Mourinho. Sources close to Abramovich say that if Mourinho was flexing his muscles, he has bitten off more than he can chew and "Roman will take a very dim view".