LONDON, February 10 – Chelsea's decision to sack Luiz Felipe Scolari as their manager could cost the Premier League side up to 15 million pounds (22 million dollars) in compensation.
Scolari, who guided his native Brazil to World Cup glory, was booted out of Stamford Bridge here on Monday just eight months in to a three-year deal worth an estimated annual six million pounds.
Getting rid of Jose Mourinho as manager in 2007 and then firing his successor Avram Grant, a matter of months after the Israeli signed a new four-year deal, would not have come cheap, even to a club bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
The total cost of sacking these three managers could be as much as 40 million pounds, a sum which threatens to make a mockery of Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon’s oft-repeated assertion that the London club will become "operationally independent" by 2010.
In the meantime Abramovich’s money, never mind the current squad, should still make Chelsea an enticing prospect for their would-be managers.
However, Abramovich’s impatience may cause some candidates to think twice about the job.
Sky Sports News reported that Russia coach Guus Hiddink, linked with the Chelsea job last year, was a candidate to take over.
Reports also said Grant could be set for a return to the club, possibly working alongside Hiddink, although he has also been linked with the vacancy at struggling Portsmouth, after Tony Adams was sacked earlier on Monday.
‘Big Phil’ was fired after Chelsea fell seven points behind league leaders Manchester United and dropped into afourth place after a goalless draw with top-flight new boys Hull at Stamford Bridge on Saturday ended with the Blues being booed-off by their own fans.
"Unfortunately, the results and performances of the team appeared to be deteriorating at a key time in the season," a Chelsea statement confirming Scolari’s dismissal said.
"In order to maintain a challenge for the trophies we are still competing for we felt the only option was to make the change now."
Assistant manager Ray Wilkins, a former Chelsea captain and ex-England midfielder, will take charge of Chelsea on a temporary basis.
Some Chelsea fans during Saturday’s match called for former player Gianfranco Zola, now in charge of London rivals West Ham, to replace Scolari.
However the Italian’s lawyer, Fulvio Marrucco, in a statement quoted by Sky, said no approach has been made by Chelsea for Zola.
"At the moment we know nothing about the link between Gianfranco Zola and the vacant position at Chelsea," Marrucco said.
"Gianfranco is very happy at West Ham and still thanks them for giving him the opportunity to be a coach in the Premier League.
"It is very difficult to say if anything will happen, but Chelsea is a special place for Gianfranco Zola."
Scolari, who won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, was manager of Portugal before he took over at Chelsea – his first job in European club management.
Chelsea great John Hollins said that lack of experience of club football had ultimately counted against the 60-year-old.
"You can’t knock him for what he’s done internationally but club football is a different ball game," Hollins, who after playing for Chelsea managed the club for three years in the 1980s, told Sky Sports.
Scolari is the seventh Premier League manager to either be sacked or quit this season and the 32nd in the entire four top divisions of English football.