Henk Ten Cate’s exit from Chelsea, just five days after the dismissal of manager Avram Grant, casts severe doubt over Frank Rijkaard’s chances of taking the top job at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea confirmed that Ten Cate’s contract had been terminated just seven months after being appointed as Grant’s number two and only four days after he claimed he had been told Grant’s removal would have no effect on his position.
Ten Cate, who was Rijkaard’s assistant at Barcelona when they won the Champions League and two Spanish League titles, told Voetbal International: “Half an hour before Chelsea made the message about Grant officially known, I was called by the chief executive Peter Kenyon.
“He informed me that the departure of Grant will not affect me.”
Ten Cate, 53, who had a contract until 2010, coached nine clubs between 1990 and 2007 but his most successful spell was as assistant to Rijkaard at Barcelona.
His presence at Chelsea, where he reportedly had several clashes of temperament with some players, appeared to indicate that Rijkaard was the favourite to replace Grant.
But it now seems that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is set on a different course for his latest appointment with Roberto Mancini, sacked by Inter Milan after winning the Italian crown but losing to Liverpool in Europe, and Portugal chief Luiz Felipe Scolari strongly in the running.
A Chelsea statement on Ten Cate’s departure read: “As a result of team-management changes at Chelsea FC and in the light of any forthcoming appointment, it was clear this was the correct decision for all parties.”
Although Blackburn’s Mark Hughes and AC Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti are believed in some quarters to be other runners for the job, only Mancini has so far publicly expressed a firm interest through his agent.
Scolari has a £2million-a-year contract which expires after Euro 2008.
His bosses are prepared to offer him a new, improved deal to stay on but Chelsea, with Roman Abramovich’s billions, could easily dwarf the current earnings of the man who was pursued by the Football Association but turned down the England job before it was handed to Steve McClaren.