Avram Grant has been sacked by Chelsea, on the day Jos Mourinho broke his long silence on his successor at Stamford Bridge by criticising the Israeli's failure to win a single trophy. The Portuguese went on to suggest that the football philosophy of his successor is that of 'a loser'.
Mourinho's exclusive interview with The Observer comes as it is revealed that Roman Abramovich made the Portuguese manager the extraordinary gift of a limited edition Ferrari worth more than 2million, in the immediate aftermath of Grant's debilitating Carling Cup final loss to Tottenham.
February's defeat was one of three final-day failures, culminating in Wednesday's Champions League Final loss to Manchester United. The Israeli coach had his contract terminated last night.
Asked if Chelsea's campaign had been the good one Grant depicted it as, Mourinho said: 'That depends on your philosophy of leadership. In my philosophy it was a very bad one because in football "almost" means defeat and Chelsea almost won the Carling Cup, almost won the Champions League, and almost won the Premier League. Almost is nothing.
'After two titles per season for the last three years there were zero titles this season, which in my philosophy means a really bad season. Maybe in the philosophy of a loser this was a great season, which I respect.'
Mourinho was in regular contact with Abramovich and several of his former players ahead of the Champions League final and was quick to commiserate with them after their defeat on penalties in Moscow. He told the Russian billionaire that Chelsea would not continue to suffer the misfortune that also cost them two previous European Cup semi-finals to Liverpool.
'The best team lost the Champions League final, like last season the best team lost the Champions League semi-final,' Mourinho said. 'That is football. I have always said that details make the difference at this level - and luck is a really big detail.
'I am very sad about what happened. In the last two years this team lost a Champions League final and a Champions League semi-final on penalties. The supporters deserve more, Roman and the board deserve more, top people like [Frank] Lampard, [Michael] Essien, [Claude] Makelele, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba], [Ricardo] Carvalho, [and coaches] Steve Clarke, Mick McGiven and some others deserve happiness. I still think of them as my boys.
'Yes, I was sad. Yes, I felt deeply that it was not fair. But I believe that after an empty season new success will come to Chelsea. And I will always be a Chelsea supporter.'
The chances of Mourinho returning as Chelsea manager have increased significantly in recent weeks. Mourinho was astounded when Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum called in February to inform him that Abramovich had purchased a rare Ferrari for the man he had removed from Stamford Bridge five months previously.
Customised specially for Mourinho, the 612 Scaglietti was one of just 60 produced to commemorate Ferrari's 60th anniversary. While still at Chelsea, Mourinho had told Abramovich that if he could have his choice of cars, the four-seat Scaglietti would be it. The list price is around 250,000, but such is its rarity the secondary-market value is as much as eight times that amount.
Abramovich's gift was made at a time at which he had begun to consider replacing Grant as manager, with Mourinho's name raised as a potential appointment. While such a move appears more feasible now that Grant has gone, sources close to the Portuguese coach say that he is too close to taking a position in Italy for it to happen this close season, although they do not rule it out in the future.
Mourinho is likely to take over from Roberto Mancini at Internazionale and may sign a contract with the Serie A club this week. He has already drawn up plans for next season and is likely to take striker Didier Drogba with him to Italy.
Grant has agreed a 5.2m pay-off from Chelsea. Although bookies were offering odds on as many as 10 different managers to be the Israeli's successor, the favourites are former Barelona coach Frank Rijkaard, Guus Hiddink and Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Chelsea have been involved in secret conversations with Hiddink, whose position as Russia's national coach is not as secure as has been presented. The Dutchman has a provisional contract to coach Russia until the 2010 World Cup, but that will not be ratified until after Euro 2008 and senior figures in the Russian Football Union are unimpressed by the team's qualification campaign. Vitaly Mutko, newly appointed sports minister and head of the Russian Football Union, said: 'We will evaluate his work after the European Championship.' Although his salary is funded by the Chelsea owner, Hiddink has previously resisted invitations to manage the club for personal reasons.
Eriksson, who was approached about the Stamford Bridge post before Mourinho replaced Claudio Ranieri in 2004, is due to meet Chelsea officials next week after he is formally dismissed by Manchester City. The Swede had been linked with a return to his former club Benfica, but the Lisbon side have appointed Quique Snchez Flores. The Spaniard was sacked by Valencia last October.