Soccer / English Premier League / Ben-Haim Goes on the Attack; Grant Quick to Respond

"It is internal business but in my opinion if the player was wrong, we need to deal with it my way. We know we need to hear from the player first if it is true or not." This is how Avram Grant, the coach of English Premier Club Chelsea, responded to what Tal Ben-Haim was quoted as saying in an interview that appeared in The Sun yesterday. Grant added: "I don't think Jose [Mourinho, the previous coach] promised Tal Ben Haim that he would play before John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Alex but maybe, yes, I will ask Tal."

In the Sun interview, Ben-Haim claimed: "It was Jose who brought me here and no one except he and I know the conversation we had when he tried to sign me the first time a year ago last January. The fact is while Jose was the coach, I played most of the games and people who know me know that I would not have come here to be a reserve. I knew that nothing good would come with Grant as Chelsea coach."

A source close to Ben-Haim yesterday told Haaretz: "Tal was keeping things inside him. He would not have opened his mouth against Grant if Grant had not started it. On a number of occasions, including in an interview to the Sport Channel, Grant said that Tal knew that he would not play when he arrived at Chelsea, and that is simply not true."

According to this source, Ben-Haim has an offer from Tottenham and it is likely that this summer he will move there either permanently or on loan."

No less important at yesterday's press conference was the fact that Grant spoke about next season. Despite the situation in the league and the sometimes hostile relationship with the fans, he said that he was not feeling any particular pressure ("We feel pressure all the time, but it is a good pressure. I don't want to live without this pressure."), and related that the club is already preparing for next season.

"I don't think money will be a problem," he said. "We know what the club's vision is, and if we find players that we want we will bring them here."

Grant added that he expects to have a budget of 80-100 million pounds, with the goal set by owner Roman Abramovich of building a club that will dominate both in Europe and in England.

Those who will probably leave are Andriy Shevchenko, who appears to be headed back to Milan, Claudio Pizarro and Ben-Haim. Others, including Juliano Belletti, Steve Sidwell, Shaun Wright-Phillips and maybe even Didier Drogba, could be on their way out.

Tonight, Chelsea hosts Everton in a game it has to win in order to keep any hope alive of winning the league championship.