Chelsea braced for Mourinho’s next move

JOSE MOURINHO may not have the power to make wholesale changes to his new Inter Milan side after president Massimo Moratti revealed he hoped to leave the squad largely untouched.

And the former Chelsea boss could have a further obstacle placed in his way by his former club who are confident Mourinho’s close friend Frank Lampard will put pen to paper on a new contract, believed to be worth in the region of £20m (€25m).

Mourinho yesterday became the 13th coach in the Moratti era at Inter, signing a three-year contract with the Serie A champions to replace Roberto Mancini, who was sacked last week.

Unsurprisingly, many of Mourinho’s closest allies at Chelsea, including Didier Drogba and Lampard, have been placed at the top of the list of possible transfer targets, but Moratti admits the team which starts the defence of their title next season may look familiar.

“I have read lots of names but I have yet to speak with him (Mourinho) about the transfer market,” revealed Moratti. “I would like to change very little of this squad which has won so much.”

Mourinho will set out his plans today when he is presented to the media at Inter’s training facilities, filling the shoes of a man who provided so much joy to the success-starved Nerazzurri followers recently.

Whether the gamble pays off this time will be revealed by May 27 next year, when Mourinho’s Inter aim to leave the field triumphant at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, having cracked the Champions League code at the 13th time of asking.

It is an expensive gamble with the 45-year-old reportedly earning €9m a year, not to mention the huge payout for his predecessor, who was contracted to the club until 2012.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are confident of a speedy resolution to talks with Lampard’s agent Steve Kutner after proposing to elevate the 29-year-old to their top wage bracket. Lampard, whose current €139,000 contract expires next summer, is set to be placed on a level terms with the club’s biggest earners, John Terry, Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko.

The England international would command a relatively low transfer fee because of his contract situation and the London club’s position is made more vulnerable as Lampard can invoke Article 17 of FIFA’s transfer regulations and buy out the remaining 12 months of his contract. That would allow him leave on a free transfer, although the chances of him pursuing such a legally tortuous route remain slim.

But Lampard was touched by the support he received from within the club following the recent death of his mother, Pat, and his desire to play abroad has also cooled.

Meanwhile, Mark Hughes now looks certain to cross the great Manchester divide to become City’s next boss.

With owner Thaksin Shinawatra needing a quick appointment to appease the fans still irritated by his failure to keep faith with Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose departure was confirmed in a whirlwind couple of hours at Eastlands, the major question seems to be whether Hughes can work with the former Thailand Prime Minister.

Should the 44-year-old decide the answer is yes, the rest, finance and ambition, will be automatic after Blackburn allowed Hughes to speak with City.


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