Chelsea turn to Garay as Mourinho goes to Plan B
Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay is among Chelsea's list of targets after the club began exploring new centre-back options following Everton's insistence that John Stones will not be sold.
Garay is represented by Jorge Mendes, the same agent as Jose Mourinho, and currently playing at Zenit St Petersburg under Andre Villas-Boas, who is determined to keep the 28-year-old. Chelsea, though, are now beginning to accept that Everton are serious in their intention to turn down any bid for Stones and they will be active in implementing their Plan B this weekend.
Mourinho refused to talk about any specific player yesterday but did confirm that he would like at least one more signing before the transfer window closes at 6pm on Tuesday. A fourth senior centre-back alongside John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma is the priority but Chelsea could also still enter the market for a midfielder or striker if a player leaves or a major target, such as Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, became available.
"Hopefully I have one in but we are not in trouble," said Mourinho. "We are not panicking because the transfer window closes in a couple of days. If we get him, we get him. If not, we don't. But for a perfect shape of the squad, one more player would give us a good balance."
Should Chelsea find a good solution, there is no certainty that they will return for Stones in January or next summer but, equally, one final bid still cannot be completely discounted in the coming days.
Chelsea are also confident of completing a deal in the next 72 hours for Zhang Linpeng, although the China and Guangzhou Evergrande defender will be loaned out.
The 26-year-old right-back was identified independently of Stones but work permit regulations mean that it will be impossible to immediately add him to the squad.
Having conceded seven goals in three games, Chelsea have the second worst defensive record in the Premier League so far this season and will be without captain John Terry today against Crystal Palace following his dismissal against West Bromwich Albion.
Mourinho said that there had been a focus on the entire team's defending in training this week and, after two red cards in three games, the squad have been preparing for the possibility of further sendings-off.
"The most important thing of this start to the season is that it's not normal that, in three matches, you have two penalties against and play with 10 men twice," he said. "I have to prepare my team for different situations, and it's better to do us with 10 against 11, than us with 11 and the others with 10."
Mourinho is also adamant that, according to his analysis of the matches, there is no fundamental issue with the team's defending. "We had individual mistakes completely out of context with the games," he said. "Normally, individual mistakes are reduced. I trust the players, so I'm OK. You have to defend as a team. You cannot blame defenders for goals conceded."
But does he now regret the decision to bring back the players later for pre-season training in an attempt to make them sharper in the final months of the campaign? "Let's speak at the end of the season," he said. "Let's see how we finish, how the others finish, how we can cope - hopefully - with three or four competitions at the same time." (© Daily Telegraph, London)