CHELSEA outbid Liverpool for the Basel winger Mohamed Salah with a bigger down-payment for the player yesterday after their Premier League rivals offered a deal worth well over £15m including add-ons.
The west London side tied up the purchase of Basel's 21-year-old midfielder rapidly and were able to announce him as their own before Manchester United could even complete a medical on Juan Mata. The Spaniard remained in London last night, though United's players have been told they will have to sacrifice their day off today and train at Carrington to help Mata integrate.
Chelsea have secured assurances from Salah that he did not make anti-Israeli remarks, having avoided a pre-match handshake before a game against the Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv, six months ago.
Chelsea have checked with the player and his representatives as to the veracity of quotes attributed to him. He denies saying the remarks. With the club owned by Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, and a supporter of the state of Israel, there is considerable sensitivity around the issue.
Liverpool are understood to have offered a total of £15m for the player – when add-ons are included – and Chelsea have gone higher to wrest away a player who they wanted in a hurry and whom they could have purchased far more cheaply this summer, when he would have been out of contract. The club may also try adding Internazionale's Colombian midfielder Fredy Guarin to their ranks.
Inter harbour hopes that Guarin might be sold to United, with Javier Hernandez heading to Italy as part of the same deal. But Chelsea see potential to move opportunistically for an £8m player whom they feel they would be getting on the cheap.
There is no realistic chance of Chelsea securing the services of Everton's highly regarded midfielder Ross Barkley – the player firmly in their sights as a potential successor to Mata – until the summer.
Everton are determined to keep hold of their most promising player as they launch a push to qualify for Champions League football next season.
Mata is expected in Manchester today, with United relaxed last night about the delay to the deal. They were unable to secure permission from Chelsea for Mata's medical until a deal had been agreed. (© Independent News Service)