Jose Mourinho says Chelsea only made a move for Basel winger Mohamed Salah after it was decided to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United.
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The Blues confirmed on Thursday that an agreement had been reached with the Swiss champions to bring Salah, 21, to Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho, though, insists the deal is still “open” and is not yet certain, as he revealed the move happened so quickly that the West London club did not even know the who the Egypt international’s agent was.
The Portuguese revealed the transfer is still subject to a medical, which needs to be conducted in Switzerland due to Salah hailing from outside Europe.
“It was a surprise for us that Juan was leaving,” Mourinho said. “We were not prepared to make a bid or try to bring a player to replace Juan in the squad, so everything happened very, very fast. We had to work on that and try to see which options could be good options for us.
“And, finally, when we decided to go for Salah we started from zero. There'd been no contact with the club or player. We didn't even know who his agent was. We knew absolutely nothing. The first step was an agreement with the club, which we did officially with Basel.
“That situation is done, no more discussion. Everything is signed and done with the club, subject to the medical that he hasn't had yet and subject to the player's desire to join us or not. Now we know he wants [to join us] and is happy his club has an agreement with Chelsea. We have to finalise it.
“He's a non-EU player so he cannot come to England for his medical, so we have to meet him for the medical, probably in Switzerland. After that we can meet the paperwork for him to come.”
Mourinho did not confirm the size of the bid made to Basel, but it is understood that Chelsea’s offer was significantly higher than Liverpool’s, who have also monitored Salah for months and looked to be in pole position to sign him.
Asked about Reds boss Brendan Rodgers’s comments that his side still have a chance of signing Salah, Mourinho said: “Maybe he is right. I don't know what Liverpool did before us.
“The only thing we know is that we contacted Basel before we contacted the player. We went direct to Basel and asked them if the player was available for negotiations. They said yes. We reached an agreement with Basel.”
Mourinho stated that Salah will fit perfectly into Chelsea’s profile.
“I like the fact that he can play the same way as our attacking players do, which is players with adaptability to play right, left or behind the striker in the model we have with normally -- one striker and three behind the striker. He's young like our players in that area," he said. "He's fast, creative, enthusiastic. When we analyse him he looks the kind of humble personality on the pitch, ready to work for the team and adapt to a new life.
“We believe if he comes that he will have a similar process to Willian, because he needed two or three months to grow up and feel comfortable playing for us in the way we do. But with [Salah] and [Andre] Schurrle, [Eden] Hazard, Oscar and Willian, we will be fine. We lose an experienced top player like Juan, but we bring in a young player of great potential.
“And we have a couple of players on loan, Bertrand Traore [at Vitesse Arnhem], young [Thorgan] Hazard [at Zulte Waregem], Victor Moses [at Liverpool] -- two or three players that we still think that we can bring one of them next season to make our group of players behind the striker, and we always play with three, will be very strong.”
Mourinho added that he will help nurture the talents of Salah, like he has done with many players in the past.
“He told me that he thinks the same way I helped young players, talented players, to be better -- people like [Mesut] Ozil, like Willian... talented players like Oscar, [Arjen] Robben, players I've had with similar qualities and talents,” he said. “I tried to help. He trusts me and I'm happy to have him.
“I know also what he means for his country and his continent. I know he has in his mind to become a great player not just in top European football but to be a top player for his country, history and continent, to try and win individual awards at this level. The best way to do it is a mixed situation: on the one side we have to protect, but we cannot expect a player like Salah or Willian to be the team star or match winner in a few weeks; by the other side we have to demand a lot and make them understand this is a different level, a completely different world.”