Jose Mourinho has cleared a huge obstacle surrounding his proposed return to Chelsea by agreeing to forego €20m in compensation to ensure that he is free to leave Real Madrid this summer.
After a 30-minute meeting yesterday with Florentino Perez, the Real president, it was announced that Mourinho would depart by "mutual" consent after Madrid play their final match of the La Liga season against Osasuna on June 2. Perez referred to the pressure of managing Madrid as an explanation for Mourinho's exit and drew a pointed comparison with working in the Premier League.
"In England a match lasts the two hours before a game, the two hours of the game, and then the two hours afterwards," he said. "Here it is seven days a week and the pressure tells. This is a high-pressure job. We are proud of the fact that so much is expected of us at this club. Mourinho is the longest serving coach in the first division. It is not easy to last three seasons, and more so at this club."
Perez also addressed reports that Mourinho's wife, Matilde, had been insulted by supporters earlier this month as they drove to the Valdebebas training ground.
"We would have liked him to continue but the pressure was just not sustainable," said Perez. "It had gone beyond the limits of normality with insults unbecoming of civilised people."
Significantly, Mourinho has negotiated a departure from Madrid that is free of compensation for all parties. Had he been sacked, Mourinho could have activated the €20m clause in his contract. Similarly, if Chelsea had made a formal approach for Mourinho, Madrid could have pointed to the remaining three years on his contract and demanded compensation which, even with a break clause, would have amounted to about €14m.
Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, was forced to pay about €21m to Mourinho and his staff when they left Stamford Bridge in 2007, meaning that the issue of compensation to reappoint him would have represented a very serious hurdle in negotiations.
The compromise that was agreed yesterday between Mourinho and Madrid reflected an acceptance on both sides that it would be better to move.
Even so, Mourinho's decision to walk away without any compensation does clearly point both to him being determined to return to Chelsea and also having a firm offer.
The expectation at Chelsea is that the new manager will be officially appointed and potentially also unveiled during the second week in June.
Chelsea have already begun work towards the summer transfer window, with a €24m deal in place to acquire Bayer Leverkusen forward Andre Schurrle. Chelsea would also like to add a striker and a central midfielder, while Southampton's Luke Shaw has been earmarked as a potential long-term replacement for Ashley Cole.
News yesterday that Falcao will leave Atletico Madrid this summer is certain to have alerted the hierarchy at both Chelsea and Manchester City. Falcao, who would cost over €50m and has scored 70 goals in two seasons at Atletico, has been a long-term Chelsea target but is also of serious interest to Monaco.
A decision on whether to keep Romelu Lukaku, who has enjoyed such a productive on-loan season at West Brom, is expected after the club's pre-season tour of Asia.
Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper, has stressed that the players will welcome a swift resolution to the managerial uncertainty.
Despite his observations about the pressure of managing Madrid, Perez yesterday argued that Mourinho should be considered a success at the club both for winning La Liga in 2011-12 and leading the team to three consecutive Champions League semi-finals.
"He has taken us to another level," he said. "We have made a big jump in terms of competitiveness. Now we are back where we belong; before we were being knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage, now we are always group seeds. We played some spectacular football last season."
Of the current trophyless season – Mourinho's first as a manager – Perez said: "In the world of mere mortals reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League and the final of the Kings Cup would be enough but, for us, it is not enough. I think overall the balance is a positive one. It has just not been sufficiently good; neither for us nor for Mourinho. But it has not been a bad season. If we had won a European Cup then we would not be talking about this."
Ancelotti has already met with his club's president Nasser Al Khelaifi to inform him of his desire to leave but PSG want him to see out a contract which expires in 2014.
Should Ancelotti leave PSG, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez would be among the targets. Wenger has stressed that he intends to see out his contract at Arsenal while Benitez is also a leading candidate for Napoli. (© Daily Telegraph, London)