Chelsea close in on deal for £6m Benayoun
CHELSEA are set to sign Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun for £6m. The 30-year-old Israeli has been earmarked as Joe Cole's replacement after Chelsea confirmed that the England international was going to be released at the end of this month after failing to agree a new contract.
Although Chelsea, who have also released Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti, are looking to acquire younger players this summer, and to blood five from their youth set-up next season, the deal to sign Benayoun is regarded as a good one.
Benayoun is set to agree terms on a four-year contract and although Liverpool are still hoping to hold out for more than the £6m Chelsea are offering, it is believed a deal is close to being agreed.
He joined Liverpool for £5m in 2007, from West Ham, and has been a moderate success, although his opportunities were often limited under Rafael Benitez.
Chelsea are set to make an exception to their policy of targeting players in their early 20s because Benayoun is a proven Premier League performer and his wage demands are far lower than those of Cole.
It is possible that Chelsea will return to Liverpool this summer with a bid for the Spain striker Fernando Torres, although it is unlikely his future will be decided before a new manager is appointed.
The signing of Benayoun will be the first made by manager Carlo Ancelotti since he took over last summer and it is set to be followed by at least two other experienced players, while Chelsea will continue to trim their squad with one or two more high-profile departures. (© Daily Telegraph, London)