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Chelsea: Hello Jose, bye Claudio
Updated: 2004-05-08 09:36

Chelsea's immediate worry should be today's trip to Manchester United, but it is their future which has taken centrestage.

Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri has made something of a U-turn and expressed the hope that he will be given the chance to finish the job he has started at Stamford Bridge. [AFP]

Success with Porto puts Jose Maurinho in line for the big contract with Chelsea

The big news that shouted from the back pages of English newspapers was that Porto's Jose Mourinho was on the verge of joining Chelsea after more talks over a £10-million, five-year deal.

He was believed to have met Roman Abramovich and his advisers after Chelsea's sapping Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of Monaco on Wednesday.

There were more discussions yesterday between Abramovich's football adviser, the Israeli agent Pini Zahavi, Mourinho and his agent Jorge Mendes, reported The Evening Standard. Mourinho, who has led his team to the European Cup final and said he would like to bring playmaker Deco with him from Porto, has admitted he is interested in becoming manager of Chelsea.

He said: 'Chelsea are a great club so, of course, they interest me.'

Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri has made one final plea to be allowed to keep his job.

He said: 'The Champions League was always a gamble. But Roman Abramovich said 'Don't worry, next season it will be better'.

'I'd like to still be part of building the first floor. The foundations and the ground floor are already in place. Now it is important to build the first floor and I hope to stay with this architect!'

But his plea looks to have fallen on deaf ears, and he will leave, along with Mario Melchiot, Emmanuel Petit, Mario Stanic (all out of contract), Jesper Gronkjaer, Juan Veron, Adrian Mutu and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who was so angry after the loss to Monaco that he kicked the dressing room wall, and will be out of tonight's game with a stubbed toe.

Ranieri now has a massive task motivating himself and his tired players for Old Trafford, where a point will guarantee Chelsea second place and automatic Champions League qualification.

But a loss would be little more than bruised pride, because their four-point lead over United provides a safe buffer.

Still, there are those who believe that they have a future at Chelsea and want to prove that they have the mental strength to bounce back.

Said midfielder Joe Cole: 'We've got to make sure that, this time next year, we're still in the same competition and there's a different outcome. You find out a lot about yourself as a person and a player in situations like this. We will see how we bounce back at Old Trafford.'

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