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CHELSEA ended their search for a new manager as they have confirmed Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari will take over next month.

The Brazilian was one of the favourites to succeed Avram Grant in the Stamford Bridge hotseat but the timing of his appointment has come as a huge surprise.

Scolari is currently managing Portugal at Euro 2008 and was not expected to make a decision about his future until after the tournament.

Chelsea said in a statement: “Chelsea Football Club is delighted to confirm that Luiz Felipe Scolari will be the club’s new manager from July 1, 2008.

“Felipe has great qualities. He is one of the world’s top coaches with a record of success at country and club level, he gets the best out of a talented squad of players and his ambitions and expectations match ours.

“He was the outstanding choice.

“Out of respect for his current role as head coach of the Portuguese national team, and to ensure minimum disruption to this work, there will be no further comment from Chelsea nor from Felipe about his new role until his employment with us commences.”

Despite a number of big-name managers being linked with the job following Avram Grant’s sacking last month, Scolari was always Chelsea’s number one choice and nobody else was offered the position.

He is likely to be unveiled during the first week of July, at which time the details of his contract will also be revealed.

Scolari’s appointment comes less than a week after he insisted he would not discuss his future until after Euro 2008.

He said at the time: “What’s going to happen to me after Euro 2008 — if I am going to stay or leave — concerns (only) me and I am not going to talk about it now.

“If I decide to leave or stay, I am only going to make a public declaration at the end of Euro 2008. If something else happens during the Euros, I am not going to answer although things may go this way or that way but I am here to work for the Euros.”

Scolari’s biggest achievement was leading Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 and he famously turned down the chance to manage England following Sven-Goran Eriksson’s departure in 2006.

The 59-year-old has no experience of managing at club level in Europe.

Before becoming an international manager, he enjoyed success at club level in Brazil, winning South America’s equivalent of the Champions League — the Copa Libertadores — with two different clubs.

Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo could come up against his current coach next season if Manchester United succeed in fending off the interest of Real Madrid but the star winger does not begrudge the Brazilian ending his time in international football.

Instead, he respect’s Scolari’s right to move on.

“He needs to look for his future. I respect that,” said Ronaldo last night.

“If he has better conditions, better things for the family and for him, I respect that.

“This is football, it’s always like that. If he goes there, it’s going to be difficult.

“If he doesn’t go there, another coach will come in and do good work as well.”

Former Chelsea midfielder Ray Wilkins described Scolari as “a manager of top quality”.

He said: “It appears that he’s up for a challenge.

“He’s a big guy, he’s charismatic.

“This will be a breath of fresh air.”

Stamford Bridge legend Ron Harris also welcomed the appointment.

“I think it’s a top-class appointment,” he said.

“They have a top-class manager.”

Harris believes Scolari will introduce free-flowing football to Chelsea.

“When he was manager of Brazil their emphasis was on attacking style — I think he will bring that into Chelsea football club,” he added.

Scolari’s Portugal side saw off the Czech Republic 3-1 yesterday.


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