GENEVA, Switzerland – The timing was executed to perfection. Just minutes after Luis Felipe Scolari left the media conference room at the Stade de Geneve, Chelsea announced that arguably the biggest and most lucrative job in football was no longer up for grabs.
Scolari, the Brazilian extrovert currently hoping to take Portugal to Euro 2008 glory, promised the day before the tournament began that he would make no comment on his future until after the competition.
Thanks to Chelsea's cleverly scheduled announcement, he was at least given a few more hours of relative peace, but the questions will start in earnest Thursday morning and continue unabated until answers are given.
However, if there is one head coach capable of neatly deflecting the spotlight, it is the outwardly clowning but incredibly shrewd 59-year-old.
Scolari's big personality has as much to do with being given the task of leading Chelsea as his football resume. The Stamford Bridge club became accustomed to having a charismatic manager during the Jose Mourinho era – and liked it. Once that identical picture had been formulated as the ideal man for the job, Scolari was the only sensible choice.
Make no mistake, Scolari is Mourinho's true successor. Avram Grant was a good and decent man, but his lack of personality meant he would never be fully accepted by Chelsea fans.
While billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is not the kind of man to be held to ransom by anybody, least of all his own supporters, he has seen firsthand how discontent in the stands can filter down into the dressing room.
Grant's achievement in taking his team to second place in the Premiership and a penalty kick away from Champions League glory is not to be sniffed at. But when you invest the hundreds of millions of dollars that Abramovich has, nothing but the best will do.
Scolari was the only contender for the position to have won the World Cup and while he may not have been the best credential candidate based on club accolades, he certainly seems the best-suited to the role.
If Portugal does go all the way to the final of Euro 2008, Scolari – who is penciled in to officially commence work on July 1 – will have precious little time to prepare for the new campaign. And if he is to immediately challenge Manchester United's two-year stranglehold on the Premiership title, he will need some help.
One of the most important people at Chelsea right now is Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho. Carvalho is a senior and well-respected figure in the Chelsea locker room and his cell phone will be ringing hot over the next few days as his teammates demand to know his opinion on Scolari and his methods.
What they will hear – that he is hard but fair and, just like Mourinho, committed to taking the pressure off his players by absorbing it himself – will please most. Some, like Andriy Shevchenko, may be less than enthused to hear that Scolari also has a ruthless streak and will not select superstars simply because of their reputation or pedigree.
In his first season, Scolari may live or die by the moves that are made in the transfer market between now and opening day. Mourinho, now installed as the new boss at Inter Milan, is expected to test the waters at his former club by launching a series of attempted raids on players such as Carvalho, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien.
If Lampard has already made up his mind to go and reunite with Mourinho and fulfill a personal dream of playing in Serie A, then there may be little that Scolari's appointment will do to prevent it. Also, Portugal's involvement in Euro 2008, if its current form is anything to go by, looks likely to stretch close to the end of this month, by which time a switch involving Lampard may already be virtually completed.
Essien may be harder to pry away and seems committed to Chelsea. As one of Abramovich's favorite players, the Russian oligarch would be loath to see him depart.
Despite Carvalho's wish to link up with Mourinho, Chelsea's task in persuading him to stay is now somewhat easier, too.
Details of Scolari's contract were not disclosed (reports in the British press had the deal paying between 5 million and 6.5 million pounds a year), but the price has been steep. So too could be the after effects.
There are two prices in football, one for Chelsea and one for everyone else. Every club president, general manager, club accountant, player and agent knows Abramovich will pay top dollar for those he craves. With Scolari sure to demand certain acquisitions to fit his master plan for Chelsea success, prospective sellers can afford to bide their time and drive the hardest of bargains for talent.
But having to shell out some extra chump change is the last thing on Abramovich's mind just now. For him, the most important piece of business of the summer has already been completed.