Villas-Boas identifies Cavani as 'new' Drogba
Napoli's prolific Uruguay international striker Edinson Cavani has emerged as the front-runner to replace Didier Drogba at Chelsea next summer as Andre Villas-Boas draws up plans to continue his radical overhaul of his squad.
The Portuguese manager has despatched Chelsea's newly appointed European scout Mick Doherty to monitor the 24-year-old striker on a number of occasions this season and is believed to consider Cavani an ideal candidate to succeed the Ivorian if, as expected, he leaves the club at the end of this season.
Chelsea would have contemplated offers for the 33-year-old -- suspended for this lunchtime's crucial Premier League derby with Arsenal -- both last summer and the previous year had any suitable bids arrived.
With the player's contract due to expire at the end of this campaign, they are not thought to be prepared to offer him anything more than a single season's extension.
Villas-Boas is keen to reduce drastically the age of his squad, a task started last summer with the arrivals of Juan Mata, Thibault Courtois and Oriol Romeu. Cavani, nine years Drogba's junior, would fit that pattern.
The Uruguayan -- a native of Salto, the same border town which produced Luis Suarez -- also offers the flexibility Villas-Boas demands from his forwards, prospering as a focal point for Napoli and playing wide for his national team.
Both positions have reaped rewards: 26 goals last season, his first at Napoli, made Cavani the most prolific striker in the club's history, while Uruguay claimed a World Cup semi-final berth last year and last summer produced a shock victory in the Copa America. Napoli successfully resisted the overtures of Manchester City for their most valuable asset last summer, with the club's extrovert president Aurelio de Laurentiis expressing his determination to allow coach Walter Mazzarri the strongest possible side for the team's debut assault on the Champions League.
Though Cavani (above) has continued his impressive vein of form this season -- scoring against City at the Etihad Stadium last month before producing a stunning hat-trick to blow Milan away in Naples -- and Napoli have started the Serie A campaign sufficiently well to be considered title challengers, the club would be vulnerable to a substantial bid this summer if the city's first Scudetto since 1990 proves elusive.
De Laurentiis is desperate to build a squad of sufficient strength to make Napoli regular Champions League candidates and sources close to the Italian side have admitted that a bid of around £35m would be too good to turn down.
Chelsea could expect City to rival their interest.
Rather more pressing for Villas-Boas, ahead of the visit of Arsenal, is the fate of John Terry, who has been accused of using a racial slur towards QPR's Anton Ferdinand last Sunday.
The Chelsea manager, who has written to the English FA to explain his comments about referee Chris Foy after that game, removed Terry from his squad for the Carling Cup victory at Everton but he insisted that was a precaution to protect his captain from suspension, rather than a reflection of his state of mind. "I see no reason why he is not in the right frame of mind to play (against Arsenal)," (© Independent News Service).
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