Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho lavishly praised by Rodgers

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Andrew Powell

He may be showing strained signs of transfer window frustration, but Brendan Rodgers reckons he’s still done the best business in the market so far this year.

In Philippe Coutinho, the Liverpool manager bought a true diamond for a diamante price… and he believes the Brazilian can even inspire to a tilt at the top.

Rodgers has so far endured another difficult time in the summer market, as one after another of his top transfer targets has slipped through the club’s grasp, with the likes of Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (), Diego Costa () and Erik Lamela (set for Spurs) pursuing greater riches elsewhere.

He has repeatedly suggested a top four finish will be ‘a big, big ask’; and after losing out on Brazilian Willian – now bound for Chelsea or Tottenham – this week he glumly stated:  "We have to ensure we get quality through the door (to) give us a chance for fourth."

Yet even if he endures another fruitless few days before the window slams shut, at least he has the comfort of watching another brilliant Brazilian; one who was, remarkably, plucked from Inter Milan for what already looks like a bargain price of ‘just’ £8.5million.

Coutinho may be only just 21, but his manager has no doubts he will be able to shoulder the burden of extra expectation should Liverpool fail to land the marquee signing Rodgers so desperately craves.

"He’s a wonderful player, a joy to watch. He’s just turned 21 and he has a great career ahead of him," the Reds boss insisted ahead of .

"I have no doubts about him stepping up onto the big stage. I’ve seen him play in Champions League games for Inter. He has the temperament and quality. 

"He was was only 18, 19, when he started at Inter and notoriously in Italy, a lot of young players don’t get the opportunity. Hence, he went to Espanyol on loan.

"When I was aware he was available, having known of him when he was in Brazil, I thought it would be perfect for us and he has just got physically better."

this week, but the player’s dubious antics in constantly playing interested parties off against each other eventually persuaded the Reds’ owners to refuse to remain involved.

That now seems like a wise decision, given the Brazilian’s apparent last minute to switch to Chelsea – which came after undergoing a Spurs medical.

It does, however, leave Rodgers still searching for the goal-scoring midfielder he has pursued all summer though.

But the manager believes Coutinho can provide the perfect solution to that problem.

"His ideal position is the number 10 role. I’ve seen him play when Inter had two advanced players and one holding, and he was one of the advanced players," he added.

"Whether it’s a two or a one, he can play in that role, or from the side, but centrally is where I see him. He’s just a really honest, good young player."

Rodgers is likely to stick with for the tea-time trip to Villa.

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Gareth Bale transfer: Tottenham challenge other players to step up as Real Madrid move nears

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Andre Villas-Boas has challenged the rest of his Spurs squad to "shine" in the looming post-Gareth Bale era.

Winger has been put on hold until Tottenham complete .

But the Londoners’ Portuguese coach said he has been delighted with his new-look team’s opening two victories without the injured Bale – including that all but assures a place in the Europa League’s group stage.

AVB has stated he is building what will be a better squad, even without Bale, at .

Before on Sunday he said: "Whenever a team is missing an important player, it is a chance for other players to step up their game.

"In the end, there will always be an opportunity for other people to shine through. Other players are taking that responsibility on board.

"A player like Andros Townsend is an example, but others can follow the same footsteps. We have done so in the game against Palace and Tbilisi.

"Our game is much more collective and we are able to score inside the six-yard box, which is not very common for us – last season we were the team that scored most from outside the box – so one thing will allow the other to shine."

Townsend missed out on a place in England’s squad at the European U21 Championship earlier this summer after getting banned .

But the 22-year-old was outstanding in Georgia in his first competitive appearance since.

 

"I had a rough summer, but I have put that behind me," said Townsend. "I am now even more determined to have a good season this season and get the doubters and the bad press off my back. That is what I will be looking to do whenever I get the chance."

And after spending the second half of last season at QPR – the ninth loan of his career – the former Tottenham trainee is one winger who is determined to stay at White Hart Lane.

"I have been at Tottenham since I was eight – I am a Tottenham fan – so my main objective is to try and force my way into the team," said Townsend, also farmed out to .

"I am 22 – I need to focus and try and make the grade at Tottenham. I wouldn’t consider another loan deal."

West Ham: Matt Jarvis targets England recall

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Michael Steele

Matt Jarvis was the most relieved man at Upton Park when Andy Carroll made a club-record move to West Ham during the summer – and now hopes to force his way into the England squad alongside the big Geordie.

Jarvis, had been record signing after he completed a £10.75million move from Wolves last summer, and major things were expected… but not delivered.

The talented wideman admits there was a big responsibility on his shoulders to produce from the very start, and it took him time to find his best form under Sam Allardyce.

But with the Londoners forking out £15m to sign Liverpool striker Carroll on a permanent basis following a season-long loan, Jarvis is now hoping the new boy will be the focus of attention rather than him.

He said: “That is one thing that he can take off me and hopefully I can just go out and enjoy my football and make sure I’m playing well.

“I think you do get affected by it, but it just comes with football. I’d go out and just try and play as well as I could every week but it comes as part and parcel of football.

“I know exactly what my role is in the team – I can get crosses, get assists and get goals myself. It’s fantastic to know exactly what he wants from me.

“It would be good to increase my goal tally and chip in with more assists as well for the team.”

With England facing crucial World Cup ­qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine next month, and two more in October against Montenegro and Poland, Jarvis knows he has a great chance to impress Roy Hodgson.

Jarvis, whose only cap to date came against Ghana in 2011, added: “Of course I would love to get back in there, but I’ve just got to play well for West Ham.

“We’ve got strong ­competition for places so hopefully it brings the best out of everyone.”

Billy Bonds is to receive a lifetime achievement award at Upton Park.

He made a club record 793 first-team appearances in 21 seasons at the club.

Newcastle crowd-surfer Papiss Cisse told to stop celebrating his goals among the fans

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Ian Horrocks

Papiss Cisse has had to wave goodbye to his stand-storming goal celebration.

Newcastle striker Cisse has been told to tone-down his trademark dash into the arms of the Toon Army – or risk the wrath of manager Alan Pardew.

Cisse cemented his cult-hero status with the club’s fans after his stoppage-time with a joyous leap over the advertising boards to share his delight with the St James’ Park crowd.

Newcastle supporter of Cisse plunging into a black and white wave in the aftermath of the goal soon went viral.

But such celebrations appear to be a thing of the past after a decree from Pardew – even though boss almost lost his shirt after also ending up in with the fans after that vital strike against Martin Jol’s men in April – securing Newcastle’s last home win to date.

 

Pardew is worried about his star striker picking up needless bookings for over-the-top celebrations and potentially depleting an already threadbare forward line by getting suspended.

So Cisse, who did receive a yellow card for his memorable antics against Fulham, will reluctantly be keeping out of the crowd.

He revealed: “Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to do that again this season, because when I did it last time I got a yellow card, so the manager has had a word with me about it!

“Obviously, I’d love to jump in with the fans again and say hello after I’ve scored this season to thank them for their support, but it won’t be happening.”

After drawing a blank in the 4-0 opening game drubbing at Manchester City, Cisse – who topped Newcastle’s goal charts last season on 13 – is busy thinking up new and novel ways to mark finding the net this season.

He’s yet to come up with anything to beat a good old Geordie group hug, and ahead of Saturday’s first home game of the season against West Ham, he added: “It was important for me when I did that last season, because the fans worked really hard for us in that match, giving us their support for the 90 minutes.

“I just wanted to go and say thanks to them. But I suppose it was quite an expensive thank you to give, because I got a yellow card! Fortunately I hadn’t got one before that, otherwise I’d have been in real trouble.

“This time I’ll have to think of something new to do because I can’t leave the pitch and get booked again. I’ll try to think of something different and come up with a few ideas. It can often be just a heat of the moment thing so we’ll see what happens.”

Pardew goes into his 100th top flight game in charge of the club admitting they have struggled to fill the void left up front since the £8m departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea in January.

Cisse insists he can strike-up a successful new partnership with Loic Remy, the striker signed on a season’s loan from QPR.

The French international hopes to be in contention for his debut at home to Fulham next Saturday as he battles back from a calf problem.

Senegal star Cisse added: “Loic’s a great guy and a fantastic striker. I think we can work well together and I’m looking forward to playing with him.

“He can bring something really positive to the team and he’s a good addition to the squad.”

Remy is Newcastle’s only summer arrival so far, with just over a week until the transfer window slams shut. Cisse added: “I’m not sure why we haven’t signed anyone else, that’s up to the management and directors and I’m not going to advise them on their job."

Manchester United: Wayne Rooney set to face Chelsea, who want to buy him

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Matthew Peters

David Moyes will unleash Wayne Rooney on Chelsea – to show them just what they are missing out on.

Moyes is ready to start Rooney , despite .

Chelsea are ready to test United’s determination to keep the 28-year-old by making a fresh bid of around £40million on Monday night after the two championship contenders have played at Old Trafford.

Rooney wanted to join , but is now resigned to staying put after Moyes told him there was no way United would sell him to a title rival.

Now, new boss will trust Rooney to produce his best form – and help end Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the fledgling Premier League season.

"He’s got a good chance of playing against Chelsea – a good chance of starting," said Moyes.

The Scot believes Rooney, who came on as sub in last weekend and set up two goals, is in the right frame of mind to play in Monday’s massive match.

Elsewhere, the United boss accused previous club Everton of holding back the careers of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines to his new employers.

The Toffees were angry at the "derisory and insulting" £28m joint bid for Fellaini and Baines made at the start of this week, as it fell well short of their valuation of the duo.

Moyes said he sympathised with his old club, but claimed he would probably have let the pair join United by now had he still been in charge.

"I know that if I’d been Everton manager and Sir Alex [Ferguson] had come asking for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, I’d have found it very difficult to keep them," said Moyes. "Because I always felt the right thing to do was what was right for the players.

 

"I signed every player at Everton, so I know a lot about them. They are a great club and they are both excellent players.

"The bid, from Manchester United’s point of view, was a private thing. And if/when we make a new offer, we’d keep that offer private and confidential as well.

"The transfer window is open and we can make bids and you can say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, it’s as simple as that. That’s what it is. You’re allowed to bid.

I think there’s sort of a mixed market at the moment. No-one is quite sure where the price is right now. It’s a sort of strange market.

"Suddenly someone could give you big money. We’ve had offers for players at this club which we feel are quite small.

"I can see it where other clubs might be thinking it’s not enough value for their players as well.

"Everton are the club I’ve just left, they are a great club, I respect them greatly and in no way would I want to do it in a way that affects them.

"Of course, taking a player is going to affect them, but I’m not trying to [affect them] – I’m doing what I have to do in my job."

Everton boss Roberto Martinez was highly critical of United’s pursuit of Fellaini and Baines, but Moyes hit back and claimed his successor was still finding his feet at Goodison Park.

"All we can do is do our job here," he said. "Roberto is in a new job and I’m sure he’ll get to understand how Everton work. I know exactly how Everton work.

"I think I’ve signed every player at Everton. So I know exactly how they work.

 

"I speak to [chairman] Bill Kenwright regularly – we speak most weeks. He was great for me and hopefully he would think that I’d done a good job for him as well and Everton.

"There’s no way there’s any disrespect whatsoever.

"This is just a case where we’ve made an offer – we didn’t make it public to anybody. So we’ll try and answer the questions as best we can."

Arsenal transfers: Many players want to join us and former Gunners want to return claims Arsene Wenger

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Clive Mason 

Arsene Wenger reckons Arsenal will have no problem attracting marquee signings… as long as they are in the ­Champions League.

Gunners manager after , including Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain, already this summer.

But Wenger, who is bracing himself for a frantic final week of the transfer window, claims there are big names who are DESPERATE to join his squad – and an even longer list of former Gunners who want to come back to !

“The Champions League is, of course, the needed requirement for the top players," said Wenger, ahead of . "The players say, ‘OK, we want to join Arsenal. We want to play the kind of football you play. But as well, we want to play in the Champions League.’ It’s unfortunately like that.

“Look, many players want to join us, because they know. And even more so, all the players who have been here want to come back here.

“It’s not because they like my face! It’s for the way we treat people and for the football we play – or try to play, because unfortunately we’ve not always managed to do it.

“But they find something here they want to know again when they go somewhere else and many, many, many players, believe me, ask me to come back.”

One former player set to come back is free agent Mathieu Flamini.

Agent Darren Dein already has a deal set up for the 29-year-old France international, who had four seasons as a Gunner until 2008, to rejoin following the expiration of his contract at AC Milan.

Wenger has been impressed by Flamini’s fitness levels in training, and knows he can cover both full-back positions as well as in midfield.

But he has cannily , aware that signing an unattached player on a free transfer just now .

“They all want to come back. I don’t know if it is Arsenal or England, but there is something about it, certainly both,” said Wenger.

“Does he (Flamini) regret leaving? You should ask him this question, it would be better. I didn’t ask him that. Would he be ready to come back here? Certainly, yes.

“He works very hard, he has always been a very dedicated player. He has the required (fitness) level. He doesn’t come from a small club. He has played here, and in Milan, and in Marseille.”

Arsenal are facing a major test to bounce back after their opening day and a gruelling to be on the ball in the lunchtime kick-off in the London derby at Craven Cottage.

But Wenger added: “We have to come back to reality, to normal, and win the game, because we didn’t start well and so it’s very important we bounce back very quickly and do not get too far behind the teams who already have six points.

“It’s not ideal but I don’t want to complain about that because we play (Fenerbahce) on Tuesday again, so there’s enough room.

“Honestly, many people complain about 12.45 kick-offs. For me, 12.45 or 3 o’clock, nobody can convince me that you will be a different animal at 3-o’clock than at 12.45.”

Bonus Kenny Dalglish: Jose Mourinho's mind games before Man United vs Chelsea a waste of time – Kenny Dalglish

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AFP

Manchester United have been used to having a manager who has used psychological ploys to unsettle their opponents.

Now, ahead of , Jose Mourinho is trying to do the same to them.

Mourinho has never been shy of playing mind games in the past, and has been a talking point for most of the summer.

He has been a bit mischievous by saying they will go back in for Wayne after the match on Monday.

Mourinho’s like a dog with a bone – he won’t let it go.

But there is no way in this world that David Moyes will fall for any of his rhetoric.

He is not the gullible type.

He won’t be taking the bait.

He will let Chelsea worry about United and get on with his job.

Arsenal’s Cabaye bid perfectly fare

I have got some sympathy with Alan Pardew about losing Yohan Cabaye for Newcastle’s game against Manchester City last Monday.

But I don’t blame Arsenal , because the transfer window is still open and people coming in for one of your players is part of the deal.

It does not say much for the player, though, if he reacted so badly to the news of the bid that Pardew felt he could not pick him.

Getty 

It would be better if the summer transfer window closed the day before the Premier League season began.

But until we get a uniform football calendar across Europe, that is not going to happen.

Money can’t buy Lambert’s delight

Rickie Lambert’s winner for Southampton at West Brom last Saturday capped .

National loyalties aside, it was great to see the joy he took from scoring for England against Scotland on his debut a few days earlier.

 

It was fantastic to see that a player like him can force his way through.

It gives everybody from the lower leagues a bit of hope.

It was great to see someone get so much enjoyment from playing for their country.

It’s not all about money.

Click here to .

Brian Reade Column: If Arsenal buy two stars, I'll pick them to finish above big-spending Spurs again – Brian Reade

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Throughout last season, a national radio pundit slaughtered Andre Villas-Boas.

He told listeners Villas-Boas was doing so badly, Harry Redknapp’s relegation-bound QPR would finish above Spurs.

And when the season ended, he mocked any Tottenham fan who said their new boss was doing a decent job.

Funny how a few months, and , can change things.

On Monday, noting that Spurs were (and Arsenal had lost to Aston Villa) he declared Spurs weren’t just “certainties” for the top four, but serious title contenders.

To be fair to him, plenty of others seem to agree that one big cash splurge automatically puts you in the box seats.

and, I’m guessing, most sane Spurs fans.

They have taken too many recent kicks in the teeth, and know that in Bale they are losing one of, if not the, best player has had.

Those fans will be massively relieved Bale’s loss has been minimised by and Daniel Levy.

Not just in attracting decent players such as Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli and possibly Erik Lamela, without the lure of ­Champions League football, but in spending the Bale money before it has arrived, thus avoiding demands for hefty premiums based on the millions burning in their pocket.

But whether the splashing of the Bale cash is money well spent or just money spent has yet to be decided.

No one knows how the new men will adapt to the Premier League or if AVB can integrate them successfully in a season.

Remember Roman Abramovich handing Claudio Ranieri £120m when he took over in 2003?

It went so well, the Italian was sacked.

How about Sheikh Mansour’s first cash spree at Manchester City under Mark Hughes, when the likes of £32.5m Robinho led them to 10th place?

A title-challenging squad is never built in one cash splurge.

You need to keep throwing vast amounts of money at it until enough quality sticks.

But unlike Chelsea and City, Spurs don’t have those vast amounts.

The £90m or so they get for Bale will be a never-to-be-repeated, one-off.

Levy is right to gamble it all in one throw, to try to break into the top four.

And it may work.

Action 

But if it doesn’t, he won’t be able to repeat it next summer, indeed his funds will be stretched with an extra half-a-dozen huge contracts to pay.

That’s if these new recruits don’t do a Bale or a Luka Modric and demand “a bigger stage” (Willian has just issued an early warning by having his head turned towards Chelsea as he was about to hold up his new Spurs shirt).

Arsene Wenger is rightly getting mauled for in this transfer window.

But if Wenger does manage to bring in two big signings in the next 10 days, I would STILL take Arsenal to finish above Spurs.

Arsene may not know it all, but he knows how to guide the Gooners into the Champions League places.

And the point being ­overlooked about Arsenal is that, for once, they haven’t lost a key player this summer.

Not Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey or Laurent Koscielny.

All very good players who, , provide the base of a very good team.

Spurs faced an uphill task finishing ahead of Arsenal even if Bale had stayed.

Without him, and with the ­possibility Wenger may pull his finger out next week, it hasn’t got any easier.

Click here for .

Bonus Brian Reade: United's Moyes will certainly feel the noize on his return to Everton – Brian Reade

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John Peters

Roberto Martinez’s may appear to be a cynical ploy to get Evertonians on side.

But, in reality, he reflects the feeling towards Moyes at the club.

There is genuine disbelief and anger that he would submit bids way below market value for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, after the season had started and the Belgian’s buy-out clause had elapsed.

Especially as Moyes once labelled Manchester City “disgusting” for unsettling Joleon Lescott with a ­derisory offer so close to the end of a transfer window.

Still, it’s good news for one ­ex-Blue.

Wayne Rooney.

If he’s still at Manchester United the next time they visit ­Goodison, someone will finally be given a more toxic reception than him.

Time stars put up or shut up

There are certain pearls of nonsense peculiar to ­football.

“Cultured left foot”, “if anything he hit it too well” and my favourite “finished with aplomb.” (Even if you said “aplomb” to Stephen Fry he’d ask if you were having a stroke.)

But this summer (sorry “this corridor of uncertainty”) has been dominated by another nonsensical phrase: “They haven’t submitted a formal transfer request”.

Or rather, certain graspers are refusing to write down their desire to break their contract, in case their lack of loyalty means they miss out on a loyalty bonus.

Fans, having forked out a fortune on season tickets, are left screaming: “If you’re so desperate to leave, just say so”.

Why is this annual dance of lies allowed?

Forget Financial Fair Play rules, what about some Fans Fair Play rules?

How about telling agents that if their player wants to break his contract he must submit a written transfer request within a fortnight of the season ending?

If not the club will assume he wants to honour his contract for another season, and he’ll only be allowed to leave after that if a move is deemed in the ­interests of the club.

Punch and beauty show

Sight of the season (if not the year) was David Villa’s joyous celebration after scoring for Atletico Madrid against his old club Barcelona.

None of that false humility.

No creeping around your old fans, who not only don’t care about you any more but are secretly hoping you get carried off on a stretcher to lessen their chances of defeat.

Just a good old punching of the air, because he’d done the one thing in life he does ­exceptionally well; something he is handsomely paid to do, and which is more physically fulfilling than an orgasm – scoring a goal that sends thousands of people delirious.

Let’s hope Villa’s honesty sets a trend.

 

Booze ban would bring teetotal misery

Leeds director Salem Patel has called for an alcohol ban at Elland Road to reflect the Muslim beliefs of Dubai-based owners GFH Capital.

If it happens, surely the fans of this once-great club, who remember the glory days, will be able to sue.

On the grounds that the incompetence of successive owners drove them to drink, and now they want to take that drink off them.

An apology

I upset some Wigan fans with last week’s tongue-in-cheek prediction that Dave Whelan might attempt suicide in his Bahamas hammock because no one is listening to him any more.

I was genuinely unaware that his son-in-law had committed suicide in 2002, but I apologise to the Whelan family and anyone else who may have been offended.

Click here for why .

Jose Mourinho's only been back at Chelsea two games and is already causing chaos – Darren Lewis

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Richard Heathcote

It was always only going to be a matter of time before he was back to his old self.

Sure enough, over the past 72 hours, Jose Mourinho has taken a wrecking ball to , which no one was convinced by anyway.

In the last three days, the Chelsea boss has with Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert.

He has defiantly ahead of the Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Monday.

And now, not only , Tottenham’s top transfer target, off the treadmill while the Brazilian was having a medical, he has messed up the plans of his former club Real Madrid by causing .

On top of that, the whole episode had the added bonus for the Special One of landing a footballing body blow to his former apprentice, Andre Villas-Boas.

And Mourinho went on to rub salt into the wound by mocking the north Londoners’ failure to keep the Willian swoop under wraps.

“That’s the danger of medicals before contracts,” he said. “But, at the same time, if the medical is after the contract sometimes you can have a problem. So you have to do the medical before.

“The best thing you can do is do the medical in secret. The player is fine, you can sign him. The player is not fine, you don’t destroy his career by saying the player has problems. So you do it in secret and after that, sign the contract with the club and the player.”

Asked if he, as a consequence, was more confident of sealing a deal now, he laughed and added: “We have to do a medical.”

Villas-Boas would have smashed Tottenham’s transfer record for a third time this summer had he landed the £30million playmaker from Anzhi Makhachkala.

Instead, as we revealed yesterday, Mourinho made clear to Roman Abramovich, at the ­eleventh hour, his desire to sign the 25-year-old.

and that was that.

Spurs’ efforts were dead in the water.

Willian, awaiting a work permit, is expected to sign a five-year deal next week worth around £5m a year.

Asked whether Spurs could still snatch back the player, Mourinho smiled and replied: “That’s a good question because I think he’s already made his decision.”

Amid laughter, he then nodded slowly but deliberately before adding: “I don’t like to speak before time, because football can be crazy and this is the problem when we speak a lot about names and ­transfers. Sometimes it looks like he is, but it isn’t. But I know what the player wants. So we cannot hide.”

Spurs were not seeing the funny side after being jilted at the last minute for the third time this summer, having also seen David Villa and Christian Benteke slip through their fingers.

Willian, who had been staying at London’s Intercontinental Hotel since the start of the week, looked to be heading for White Hart Lane after Spurs ­.

Belief grew that a deal would go through when the player arrived for a medical on Thursday afternoon.

The loss of Bale was on the verge of being eased by the arrival of a top-quality replacement.

Tottenham were unaware, however, that ­Mourinho had already put his case to ­Abramovich to step in.

Willian was midway through his medical when his representatives received word that Chelsea were offering Champions League, rather than Europa League, football.

It was at that point that Spurs were left stunned – the footballing food chain had mercilessly claimed another victim.

The irony will not have been lost on Liverpool.

But Mourinho’s late swoop means Bale’s move to the Bernabeu will be delayed.

Tottenham were waiting to seal the deal for Willian before rubber-stamping the Wales winger’s departure.

Mourinho confessed he was guilty of spreading ­misinformation earlier this summer when he insisted his one remaining transfer target would be a striker.

Juan Mata – assured he remains part of the Chelsea manager’s plans after the Blues denied he was offered as a makeweight for Rooney – would do well to take note.

Mourinho said: “I have to answer your question and try to be honest, but at the same time try to hide a few things. Yeah, it’s true.

“But if you remember, I said that I’m happy with my squad; but every one of us managers, we say we’re happy but we’re always unhappy.

“We always want something more, always want something of more quality, and we never close the door to the possibility of adding more quality.”