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Mourinho's No Friend of Mine, Says Abramovich
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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said he was on warm but not friendly terms with Blues boss Jose Mourinho and insisted he had no influence on team selection in an interview published Sunday.

The Russian tycoon's big spending will soon come to a halt at Stamford Bridge in any case, he told The Observer weekly newspaper, in his first full interview in three years.

And he has no designs on taking Chelsea into a megabucks European super-league, insisting that he loved the cut and thrust of English football and tricky domestic cup ties too much.

Abramovich, the richest Russian and the second-richest British resident, brought Mourinho to the Premiership after the Portuguese boss won the Champions League with Porto, and gave him an open chequebook to sign star players.

In the two seasons since, the Blues have won the English Premiership title twice. But Abramovich denied he has a hand in team selection, said he had little influence on transfer policy and merely characterised his relationship with Mourinho as one of respect.

"We do not have friendly relations, but they are warm enough," Abramovich said.

"Generally speaking, I treat him with great respect and not only because of his football achievements."

Mourinho has said that if Abramovich forced him to pick certain players then he would walk out on the Blues.

"I'm not involved in team selection," the Russian insisted.

"I cannot say I'm completely not involved in buying players, but my role would be significantly lower than that of the manager's. You cannot compare them.

"To give an example, this would be an impossible situation when a manager does not want a player to be bought and I try to impose ideas. It would not work."

He said the free spending at Stamford Bridge would not last for ever.

"Our strategy is to bring up our own players through the academy, which we have invested a lot in, and we hope that will give results.

"We will be spending less in the transfer market in future years."

He denied that he wanted to take the west London team into an elite European super-league, which is occasionally floated between the continent's top clubs.

"I don't see the risk of that," he said.

"Money plays an important role in football but it is not the dominating factor.

"Everything that happens now - the Premiership, the Champions League, the FA Cup, the Carling (League) Cup - I am interested in and just happy about.

"I don't have an opinion about Chelsea playing in a Super League. My feeling would be that you lose something of the beauty of the Premiership by joining something not defined at the moment.

"When Chelsea play a Carling Cup game in a small city and it could result in a draw - the excitement, the spirit, the atmosphere - that's the real beauty of football in England."

The 40-year-old said he still had a burning passion for Chelsea.

"Something that disappoints me is when Chelsea lose. I cannot stand it," he said.

"Winning the Premiership was a moment of happiness and I could talk about that for ages. This is a joy very different for Chelsea fans who'd been waiting for this victory for 50 years.

"I was very happy for myself, not only because Chelsea won the Premiership, but because the victory made so many other Chelsea fans happy. Being an observer to that made me happy.

"People who know me said I will win one or two Premierships and will not be interested after that. The reality is that we've won two Premierships, but I'm more excited about this particular season than last year or the year before.

"I am a fan of a special nature. I'm getting excited before every single game. The trophy at the end is less important than the process itself."

And he shrugged off Chelsea's current unpopularity within English football, something that comes with the territory of winning the top division.

"Everyone likes the situation where the leader loses," he said.

(China Daily December 25, 2006)

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