Talks edge Mourinho closer to deal with Chelsea

Jose Mourinho yesterday held talks with Chelsea about becoming their new head coach. The 41-year-old Portuguese is set to agree a £2m-a-year deal to succeed Claudio Ranieri after the Champions' League final on 26 May.

The dynamic, energetic style of the Porto coach, which has driven his club to the final in Gelsenkirchen, has convinced Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich and his chief executive Peter Kenyon that he is the man to take Chelsea forward. Initially of course they had hoped to attract a big-name coach with, effectively, one name on their hit-list; that of Sven Goran Eriksson. But after the Swede agreed to stay with England, Chelsea switched their priorities.

If he agrees to go to Chelsea, Mourinho will be handed an astonishing transfer budget. This summer their activity in the market is set to eclipse last year, with as many players leaving as arriving.

There is one concern for Chelsea. The hugely ambitious Mourinho has appointed a Lisbon-based agent, Jorge Mendes, whose brief is to seek out the best job for his client. Sources in Portugal claim that although the coach ­ who is fluent in English ­ has made it plain he would prefer a job in the Premiership he may not be too enamoured with the regime at Stamford Bridge and would actually prefer a move to Liverpool should Gérard Houllier leave. Mourinho is acutely aware of the interference endured by Ranieri in the past year, for example, and is very much his own man.

Nevertheless Mourinho held talks yesterday. He had been scheduled to stay on in London after attending the Champions' League semi-final second leg between Chelsea and Monaco ­ to scout Porto's prospective opponents ­ but it was thought he would postpone talks until the end of this month. However, he informally met with Abramovich and Kenyon to hear their proposals before returning to Oporto and is set to agree a rolling contract.

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