LONDON • Jose Mourinho insists that he is "proud" of Chelsea for granting Petr Cech the chance to sign for Arsenal, claiming that only the world's biggest football clubs would consider selling a player to direct rivals.
Although the Chelsea manager would have preferred the 33-year-old leave England after losing his first-team place to Thibaut Courtois last year, he maintains that he backed owner Roman Abramovich's decision to allow the Czech to choose his next club.
The manager had initially said he would have preferred Cech to remain at Stamford Bridge this season, but, with the goalkeeper no longer first choice and wanting a move, supported the decision.
Mourinho told the club's official website: "I understand Petr needed to move on to play first-team football every week.
"It is very rare in football to make a decision like this and for that reason, I am proud of my club for making it. There are not many clubs in the world big enough to be able to make that decision."
Despite the fact that it would likely strengthen Arsenal's team and title chances for next season, Abramovich had sanctioned the move out of respect for Cech's contributions and years of faithful service.
Mourinho added: "Petr has been a great servant for Chelsea for 11 years and helped this club to win almost everything there is to win."
Cech, speaking in Prague on Wednesday, is confident that his move to the Emirates will not affect his relationship with Mourinho.
"It has been great to have a chat with Jose because he is a manager that I have worked with for the longest time in my career," he said.
"He had to make his decision at the start of last season, I had to make my decision at the start of this season. But I will always keep the best regards for him because I believe that we had so much success and so much respect for each other.
"He is one of the best managers in the world. Now we will be opponents, but it will not change our relationship.
"I learnt a lot from him and one of those things was that if you have to make a hard decision, you need to make sure that you do it if you believe it is the right choice."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS