Press ‘drank Avram’s blood’, claims wife

By Simon Griver, May 29, 2008
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Football boss Avram Grant was back in Israel this week contemplating his future as his family claimed a race-hate campaign cost him his job at Chelsea.

His father, Meir Granat, blamed the club’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich for caving in to external pressures to get rid of him. “Abramovich was probably influenced by the antisemites and could not stand the pressure of the negativity against Avram,” he said.

Mr Grant’s wife, Tzofit, insisted: “We’ve had a lot of support in England. Not only from the Jewish community but the entire English community. It’s only the press that have been drinking his blood.”

The normally talkative TV presenter greeted all other questions with long silences, adding only: “The children will remain in London until the end of the school year. They are at a wonderful Jewish school which has really given them a lot.” She declined to name the school “for security reasons”.

On Tuesday, Mr Grant was seen lunching with lawyer Anthony Julius in Rafael’s restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street. Mr Julius, whose firm Mischcon de Reya negotiated Mr Grant’s contract at Chelsea, told an Israeli reporter that he would be representing him in severance talks, even though the ex-Chelsea boss had earlier said he would negotiate with the club.

However, Israeli lawyer Yehuda Weinstein, a friend of both men, said Mr Julius was in Israel visiting his children, two of whom live in the country.

Sources close to Mr Grant insist he felt betrayed by Mr Abramovich and bluntly rejected his £2 million-a-year offer to return to his job as technical director and will pursue the biggest severance payout he can get.

Chelsea say that they will honour the terms of his contract, which included a severance clause — believed to be six months’ wages, around £1.2 million.

The source also confirmed that Mr Grant was unhappy with the manner of his departure. A source close to the former Israeli national team boss said: “Avram feels very hurt, upset and angry. He said he doesn’t trust them any more. It was not a friendly meeting at all. Avram does not want anything to do with the club now. He didn’t even want to discuss his compensation, which will run into millions. He told Roman to speak to his lawyer.”

Millions of Israelis have followed Mr Grant’s Chelsea career since he replaced Jose Mourinho last September. One-and-a-half million watched the team’s European Champions league final defeat live on TV last week, even though it was screened at 12.45am.

Even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert weighed in, saying: “He brought a lot of respect to the Israeli people.”

Avi Cohen, chairman of the Israeli Professional Footballers Association, said: “It’s very, very unfair, particularly because of his success. John Terry should have scored the penalty, Chelsea would have been champions of Europe and Avram would have stayed. You can’t blame Avram Grant because John Terry missed a penalty.”

    Last updated: 9:16am, May 29 2008