Benfica cge Jesus, who secured a second Portuguese league title in a row for the Lisbon side last month, has left the club and is poised to move to rivals Sporting who sacked coach Marco Silva earlier on Thursday.
Benfica said in a statement they had ended all negotiations with Jesus regarding a possible extension of his contract which expires at the end of June.
Local media said Jesus was switching to Sporting after a salary dispute.
Benfica President Luis Filipe Vieira said in a televised speech he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the move.
In a thinly veiled reproach, he added that he particularly admired a sense of gratitude in people and that he wanted a new manager to be “a person of character as well as ambition and commitment to Benfica”.
Vieira denied media speculation that he had already agreed a deal with a new coach and said he would pick a name “with time and without rush”.
Sporting said Silva had been informed of his dismissal with just cause as it had not been possible to come to terms with him.
Both Sporting and Benfica are listed companies. Sporting’s shares soared almost 18 percent on Thursday, while Benfica’s stocks fell 5.6 percent.
Benfica had been trying to cut Jesus’s wage, which was the highest for any coach in Portugal, Expresso newspaper reported, adding that Jesus’s move to Sporting was backed by the club’s Angolan shareholder Alvaro Sobrinho.
Jesus has managed Benfica since 2009, but also has a personal connection with Sporting where his father, Virgolino, played in the 1940s.
Sporting won the Portuguese Cup on Sunday, their first trophy in seven years, in a dramatic fightback against Braga.