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London – Chelsea have started the process of negotiation with Jose Mourinho about his potential availability in the summer and his desire to return to Stamford Bridge.
It is tentative at this stage but contact has been made and Roman Abramovich is interested in enticing the Real Madrid manager back to London.
Mourinho looks increasingly likely to part company with Real, who lost to Granada on Saturday and fell 15 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Chelsea’s results are also lurching from bad to worse under interim boss Rafa Benitez and despite some reservations, the temptation to bring back his most successful manager is growing for Abramovich.
The Blues are still third in the Premier League table despite conceding more late goals and losing 3-2 at Newcastle. The defeat allowed the chasing pack to close and the owner will not tolerate missing out on the Champions League. Whether an emotional reunion has the same pull for Mourinho is questionable and he will be influenced by the degree of control the Russian would be willing to afford him.
The influence of managers over recruitment and team-building has been eroded since he left Stamford Bridge in September 2007 and would be central to any negotiations.
The relationship between Abramovich and Mourinho has thawed since their acrimonious split, yet it would be a huge concession if the Chelsea owner were to let his next manager lead a team-building programme. Abramovich felt Mourinho had become too powerful when he was sacked.
The other major factor is Paris Saint-Germain, a project which appeals to Mourinho, although sources in Italy suggest Carlo Ancelotti will be granted at least one more year at the helm.
Benitez blamed Chelsea’s first defeat in six games at St James’ Park on his side’s lack of experience. Yet his back five of Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole, have more than 1,300 Premier League games between them and they had a youthful Frank Lampard running round in his 507th game, scoring his 197th goal for the European champions.
But this is four games without a win for the under-fire Chelsea boss, and his third league defeat in 13. He was mocked by both sets of supporters and lost Demba Ba, and with him the £7.5million signing’s chances of silencing the Newcastle boo boys, just before a Jonas Gutierrez header put the home side in front.
Benitez, who watched Moussa Sissoko mark his home debut with two outstanding late goals to win the game, attacked referee Howard Webb for failing to give a penalty for Fabricio Coloccini’s last-ditch, high-footed lunge which broke his former team-mate Ba’s nose as he headed a close-range rebound narrowly wide.
And when that was off his chest, a frustrated Benitez turned on his senior players. He said: “We were winning 2-1 and then we allowed them to play counter-attacking football four or five times. We have experienced players but we didn’t do well.” – Daily Mail