Ajax have accused Chelsea of going behind their backs in recruiting Henk ten Cate, who was flown to London in a private jet without the Dutch club's knowledge before holding secret negotiations at the home of Frank Arnesen.
Ten Cate is expected to take up the post of Avram Grant's assistant at Chelsea next Monday although, as of last night, he had yet to fully agree to the move. At the same time Chelsea were still officially waiting for Ajax's agreement – despite the fact that Ten Cate left on Monday after a compensation package of £650,000 was proposed for the final nine months of his contract.
Ajax's technical director Martin van Geel reacted angrily yesterday, saying, "Chelsea have contacted Henk behind our backs and without our knowledge he went to London to talk to them. Henk informed us last Tuesday about this. I don't think that is right. For us this all comes on a very bad moment, if it was up to us we would have ended the season with Henk."
Chelsea are not commenting on the accusations but, privately, are bemused at Ajax's stance – especially because compensation has been agreed and, also, it appeared highly likely that Ten Cate would have been sacked after an indifferent start to the season had he not been released. Ajax, also, have shown no intention of making an official complaint.
There have also had to be further talks with Ten Cate over his role. He has impressed owner Roman Abramovich after being recommended by Arnesen, the club's influential chief scout and head of youth development, and had been led to believe that he would be fully in charge of tactics and training.
However Chelsea have now been moved to point out to the Dutchman that he will be Grant's assistant, on a par with Steve Clarke – who has been placated, it appears, after threatening to leave – with the Israeli as manager. It appears Ten Cate, who will be paid £2m a year, will agree to those terms even if they are diluted. However he has still certainly been informed by some at Chelsea that he is, in effect, a manager-in-waiting – or, at the least, will have a greater say in team matters than will be framed in his contract.
In reality, how the roles at the club develop will depend on results. Abramovich is determined to give Grant every opportunity to succeed. But if the team flounders he will, also, not hesitate to make a change with Grant reverting to director of football.
It remains a sensitive time at Chelsea, who also hope to announce a new fitness coach, goalkeeping coach and scout in the next few days following the departure of Jose Mourinho and his four-strong Portuguese backroom staff.
Ajax have appointed an interim coach until the end of the season. Head of youth Adrie Koster will take over with Dutch national coach Marco Van Basten due to be appointed after next summer's European Championships.