Jose Mourinho's chances of returning to Chelsea have increased after the Real Madrid coach apparently lowered his demands. However, no deal has been agreed as yet and Mourinho will still have to fight to get the job.
Manchester City's director of football Txiki Begiristain also made a similar journey in December to gauge whether Santos could be persuaded to sell Neymar, rated as high as £50m, now, rather than after next year's World Cup Finals. City are, however, very close to agreeing a deal to sign Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, for a similar fee, from Napoli.
Chelsea have had previous bids rejected for Neymar while Mourinho also expressed an interest in the 21-year-old – despite assumptions he was going to Barcelona – two summers ago.
Mourinho's representatives have re-opened a dialogue with the Premier League club over the past few days in the hope that Roman Abramovich can finally be persuaded to take back the manager who left, in acrimony and recrimination after a series of bust-ups, in September 2007.
Although there is a groundswell of support from within Chelsea for Mourinho to return it is believed that the Russian billionaire has proved more reluctant given the fact he did not enjoy the aggravation around the manager. He also gave Mourinho an £18m pay-off.
This time round Mourinho is understood to have initially demanded a salary of £12m a year, a get-out if Chelsea fail to finish in the top four and, most crucially of all, control of the club's transfers in the belief that Chelsea would simply welcome him back. These demands were rejected.
Sources last night were still urging caution over claims that a deal had been agreed but, it appears, Mourinho's chances have improved. Two and a half weeks ago Chelsea met with Manuel Pellegrini's agent in Paris to discuss a deal to take the 59-year-old Chilean away from managing Malaga.
At that time Pellegrini was, therefore, regarded as the favourite for the Chelsea job and, like Mourinho, his name has been on the club's shortlist for some time along with Everton's David Moyes while other candidates have been considered.
Pellegrini's style and style of football fitted the mould of the type of coach Chelsea want to employ – although there is a risk in that he has not worked outside of Spain or South America and would be new to the Premier League. But he still cannot be discounted although there are other suitors.
Chelsea have been pleased with the work of interim manager Rafael Benitez – although he has to ensure the club qualify for the Champions League – which led to a discussion as to whether he could remain in charge next season.
However, there does appear to be an acceptance that the strong opposition of the Chelsea supporters to the appointment cannot be ignored.
It would be remarkable if Mourinho did cede control of the club's transfer policy given this was one of the major causes of friction when he was previously at Chelsea. Mourinho had a running feud with the then sporting director Frank Arnesen and also complained bitterly about Andrei Shevchenko, who Abramovich was determined to sign, after he arrived and proved to be a flop.
A breaking point was the appointment of Avram Grant as director of football. Given Emenalo – brought in by Grant – is not under threat then it would appear that Mourinho would have to work with him if he is to return.
Indeed one of the causes of tension in Madrid has been Mourinho's claim that his authority has been regularly usurped by the Spanish club's hierarchy.
Mourinho could not have been clearer in his post-match comments on Tuesday evening after Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League, at the semi-final stage.
"I want to be where people love me to be," he said on Tuesday. "I know in England I'm loved. I'm loved by the fans, I'm loved by the media that treats me in a fair way, criticising me but giving me credit when I deserve it. I know I'm loved by some clubs, especially one, and in Spain, the situation is a bit different because some people hate me."
There are two schools of thought around Mourinho's behaviour from those who know him: one that he spoke because he has now received a firm offer from Chelsea and felt emboldened to do so. Or, interestingly, that it was a more desperate act than that – one source remarked yesterday that he had not seen Mourinho behave like that before. "Him offering himself like that was strange," he said – and was effectively issuing a come-and-get-me plea.
Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes has held talks with Paris Saint-Germain – Carlo Ancelotti is expected to leave the French club this summer and the former Chelsea manager is the favourite to succeed Mourinho at Real – but that interest is believed to have cooled. (© Daily Telegraph, London)