Mourinho will target Chelsea trio after Inter move

Pete Jenson
Tuesday 03 June 2008 00:00

Jose Mourinho will be presented as Internazionale's new coach today with three of his former Chelsea lieutenants on his list of potential new recruits.

A statement from Inter confirmed: "Internazionale announce the arrival of Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese coach has signed a three-year contract and will work alongside Rui Farias, Silvino and Andrei Villas Boas. The assistant coach will be Giuseppe Baresi."

The statement continued: "Thanking Roberto Mancini and his staff for the success obtained in four seasons as the leader of the team, all of Internazionale has the great pleasure to welcome Jose Mourinho and his coaches."

The good news for Chelsea supporters fearing an exodus is that advanced moves to take the Barcelona players, Samuel Eto'o and Deco, to Italy could cool interest in Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, and that Chelsea will almost certainly price Michael Essien out of Inter's reach.

The former Chelsea manager is understood to have sent a message to the Ghana midfielder after his European Cup final disappointment, relaying news that he was to be confirmed as Inter's new coach and that he hoped one day Essien would join him. The player Mourinho signed from Lyons for £25m in 2005 would replace the former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira in the heart of Inter's midfield but he is understood to be happy in London, despite his allegiance to Mourinho, and his asking price is likely to be more than £30m.

Drogba would be a more straightforward option but the Ivory Coast striker's dream exit from Stamford Bridge could be complicated by Inter's interest in the Barcelona forward Eto'o. The club's president Massimo Moratti was in Barcelona last week for talks with Barça's Sporting Director, Txiki Begiristain, and the transfer of Eto'o is understood to have been the main reason for his visit.

Eto'o was a Mourinho target when he was at Stamford Bridge, and having spent much of last season studying Barcelona – until it was clear they would overlook him in their search for a new coach – he will know that Eto'o remains one of the world's most formidable strikers. Last season he missed six weeks through injury and another month on African Cup duty but still managed 15 goals in 17 league starts.

Relations have soured with supporters who accused him of a lack of commitment when he first suggested he would leave if Barcelona won nothing again and then missed a match against Real Madrid after appearing to deliberately pick up a suspension. He became embroiled in more controversy last week when he was accused of head-butting a radio journalist at Cameroon's training headquarters. Barcelona see him as a public relations liability and yet somebody who still commands the kind of transfer fee which will help them finance squad rebuilding.

While not involved in last week's meeting Mourinho is understood to have given his full backing to Inter's push for Eto'o, and with the club not short of striking resources and the current first-choice forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the verge of signing a contract that will keep him at Inter until 2013, Mourinho might not be able to make room for his close friend Drogba.

Also understood to have been discussed at last week's meeting was Portuguese midfielder Deco who won the Champions League with Mourinho at Porto and like Eto'o is being shunted out of the Nou Camp.

Mourinho is still smarting at being overlooked for the Barcelona job, and the prospect of building a Champions League-winning team around two Barcelona cast-offs could be too much to resist.

If Deco joins Eto'o at Inter it would then remain to be seen if there was still room for Lampard. His agent, Steve Kutner, who has close links with Inter, having taken both Paul Ince and Patrick Vieira there in the past, has denied that any deal had been done for Lampard to follow Mourinho, and negotiations with Chelsea are understood to be ongoing over a £130,000-a-week extension to the England international's contract at Stamford Bridge that runs out at the end of next season.

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