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Scolari´s sunshine summit gives Chelsea winning feeling

SoccerNews in English Premier League 2 Aug 2008

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As Luiz Felipe Scolari stepped ashore from Roman Abramovich's Pelorus yacht the Brazilian was already convinced he had made the right decision to join Chelsea.

Scolari had just met Blues owner Abramovich to talk about taking charge at Stamford Bridge and by the time he was back in the blazing Monte Carlo sunshine a deal was all but sealed.

It could prove to the moment the destiny of the Premier League title was decided. With the new campaign just two weeks away, Scolari looks an astute appointment.

Liverpool and Arsenal are capable of mounting a challenge for Manchester United's title. But it is Scolari's Chelsea who are the biggest threat to Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Abramovich has every right to feel satisfied with his choice, especially since it was the Russian's practical approach to the job of producing a successful team that reassured Scolari he would be able to run Chelsea his way.

When Jose Mourinho was forced out of the Bridge after a series of increasingly bitter disagreements with Abramovich and his advisors it seemed that any manager worth his salt would baulk at the prospect of walking into the west London's political minefield.

But Scolari has never been one to follow received opinion, so when Chelsea called to ask if he would consider leaving Portugal to replace Avram Grant his interest was piqued.

Since Abramovich watched Manchester United's 4-3 win over Real Madrid five years ago, he has had a reputation as a footballing romantic who is only satisfied if his team win by playing the beautiful game.

But, while Scolari loves his teams to entertain, he is a pragmatist first and would have resisted Chelsea's offer if Abramovich had insisted on a specific playing style.

He need not have worried. The pair quickly bonded over their shared belief that victory is more important than the manner it is achieved.

“I am not here to play pretty but to win titles. If we do both, that's great,” Scolari said. “There has never been a situation when Roman said 'We have to play beautiful'.

“I met him twice and we talked like two ordinary people, not as owner and coach. He said 'Do better for Chelsea'. That's it. Nothing more.”

If Scolari does help Chelsea go one step further than last season, when they were pipped to the Premier League and Champions League by United as well as losing the League Cup final to Tottenham, he will do it with a squad almost identical to the one employed by Grant.

Scolari is far too canny to completely overhaul one of the strongest teams in Europe. Aside from signing Deco, well known to Scolari after his time with Portugal, he has been quiet in the transfer market.

A move for Real Madrid winger Robinho is on the agenda but Scolari's hopes of instant success will rest more with his ability to get the best out of unsettled stars Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba than any new arrivals.

Lampard appears ready to see out the last year of his contract after flirting with a move to Inter Milan but has reportedly been unhappy with the club's offer of a new deal.

Meanwhile Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon insists Drogba won't be sold despite suggestion that the Ivory Coast forward wants to leave.

It could all add up to a major headache for Scolari, but he prizes a strong team-spirit above all else and he has already spoken to both players to underline their importance to his plans.

Winning those battles will go a long way to ensuring Chelsea erase the painful memories of last season's near-misses.

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SoccerNews

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