The first appointment of the new Avram Grant regime is set to be the Ajax manager Henk ten Cate after it emerged last night that Chelsea have made an audacious approach to the Dutchman with a view to making him the Israeli's assistant at Stamford Bridge.
Ten Cate, 52, was Frank Rijkaard's assistant at Barcelona when the Spanish team eliminated Chelsea from the Champions League last year and went on to win the tournament. Highly-rated within football, the Dutchman was also reported to be the man who kicked Jose Mourinho in the backside in the Nou Camp tunnel after a tempestuous game between Barcelona and Chelsea in 2005.
Should he decide to take the job, Ten Cate would still work under Grant's direction but would wield considerable influence in selecting the team and tactical decisions – sitting alongside the Israeli on the Chelsea bench.
The approach to Ten Cate was understood to have been made by Frank Arnesen, the Danish director of youth development at the club who has close links to Dutch football. Last season his Ajax team lost the Dutch league on goal difference to PSV Eindhoven and were then eliminated at the qualifying stages of the Champions League earlier this season.
The potential appointment of Ten Cate, who only has a contract at Ajax until the end of this season, is the first attempt by the club to strengthen their backroom staff after Mourinho and his four assistants quit last month. Given the chaotic start to Tuesday night's training session in preparation for the Valencia game it is evident that the Israeli needs some support.
Grant would still be the most senior figure on the coaching staff and would make the final decisions on team selection. Ten Cate, however, has a reputation for in-depth preparation and coaching in much the same way that Mourinho does. His management career began in 1988 as assistant at Go Ahead Eagles in Deventer and he has moved around extensively since then. He had spent three periods at the club as a player in a playing career that was not particularly auspicious.
Chelsea are still uncertain what the intentions are of current No 2 Steve Clarke, who may yet leave the club to pursue his own management career. They have also considered the former Liverpool and Tottenham captain Jamie Redknapp as a member of their coaching staff.