Wednesday 29 March 2017

£90m Abramovich planning summer spending spree to land Modric, Neymar and Sanchez

Luka Modric and Neymar top Chelsea's summer shopping list. Photo: Getty Images
Luka Modric and Neymar top Chelsea's summer shopping list. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

Luka Modric, Alexis Sanchez and, above all, Neymar head a list of summer transfer targets drawn up by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

The Russian billionaire has sanctioned a team of advisers, club executives and agents to pursue a number of deals during this transfer window to rebuild the club's squad.

None of the deals are advanced but inquiries have been made, with Chelsea keen to add more youth and creativity as Abramovich sets about reshaping the squad to provide greater support for striker Fernando Torres, their £50m January signing from Liverpool.

There is a feeling at Chelsea that Torres' problems last season were caused in part by a lack of attacking support from the rest of the team. The changes are being planned even though the club have yet to appoint a new manager, and have been approved by Abramovich.

Guus Hiddink remains likely to take over by the end of this month and he is aware of the targets being pursued by Abramovich, who is taking a more hands-on approach to player recruitment as well as the hiring of a new manager and either a director of football or a chief scout.

Hiddink is on holiday while negotiations continue for his release from the final months of his contract as coach of Turkey, which takes him up to the end of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Hiddink has made it clear he would like to leave but has yet to agree a deal to go to Chelsea.

An inquiry, but no bid as yet, has been made to Tottenham over Modric, who has long been admired at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are prepared to bid as high as £30m but, so far, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has refused to negotiate.

Whether Levy can hold on to the 24-year-old Croatian international midfielder, who is also being discussed by Manchester United, remains to be seen, especially if Chelsea launch a substantial bid.

Spurs are interested in Didier Drogba but it is understood that, after considering selling the 33-year-old striker, Chelsea now intend to offer him a 12-month contract extension to add to the year he has left on his deal.

That may explain a cooling in Chelsea's interest in Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku. But Chelsea are still bidding for the 18-year-old and have authorised agents to go as high as £20m -- far more than they initially wanted to pay for a player who is still regarded as raw potential for the future rather than a ready-made first-team player.

At the same time, Chelsea have stepped up their interest in Brazil international Neymar, who they came close to signing last year only for the striker to agree a new contract at his club, Santos.

It had been thought that Neymar would remain at Santos for one more year, but it is now understood that Chelsea might make their move for the 19-year-old, who is involved in the forthcoming Brazilian Cup final, after the Copa America. The difficulty for Chelsea is that his transfer value will have risen since last summer and they will have to bid in excess of £20m.

Chelsea's interest in Sanchez (22) is also long-standing, although it had been thought that the Chilean winger would leave Udinese this summer for either Manchester City or Manchester United, with Inter Milan also in the reckoning.

Advanced talks have taken place with both Manchester clubs, with United at one stage appearing set to hijack City's deal. But progress has stalled over the £30m being demanded by Udinese and Chelsea are now also set to make a move.

If Chelsea sign all three of their targets, it will cost the club close to £90m -- a clear signal of intent from Abramovich that he wants to challenge to win the Premier League and Champions League next season.

It appears Abramovich has, for now, abandoned hopes of promoting a number of players from Chelsea's academy to the first-team squad and is preferring to buy in outstanding young talent.

Chelsea are also interested in Genk winger Kevin De Bruyne (19) and Hadjuk Split striker Ante Vukusic (20) as they also try to become less dependent on a group of senior players who are over 30.

The signings of David Luiz, Ramires and, to an extent, Torres have already partly achieved that, with former manager Carlo Ancelotti having identified a worrying deficiency in first-team players in their early and mid-20s.

That -- as well as Ancelotti's departure -- may explain Chelsea reducing their efforts to sign Real Madrid's Kaka.

Chelsea will remove several players from their first-team squad this summer with the first departure expected to be Jose Bosingwa. Also under threat are Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and Paulo Ferreira, while Yuri Zhirkov has expressed a desire to play more first-team football and may be allowed to leave. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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