Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 December 2017

Blues building for United task

Jason Burt , in Bangkok

In the opulence of Ballroom One in Bangkok's showpiece Shangri-La hotel yesterday, Andre Villas-Boas set out a vision of his own football utopia: how Chelsea will overhaul Manchester United without spending big this summer and by "paying respect to the valued squad that we have".

The new Chelsea manager has, nevertheless, been busy and used the same occasion to confirm that a €5m fee had been agreed for the promising Barcelona defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu. "Oriol is a player with a bright future," he said. He's also a player Villas-Boas identified and has brought to the club.

But like goalkeeper Thibault Courtois, who is to be loaned to Atletico Madrid, Romeu is just 19, while the targets that Chelsea are also closest to signing -- striker Romelu Lukaku and another Belgian, the winger Kevin de Bruyne -- are also young.

If Luka Modric is acquired, and if a bid is finally placed for Scott Parker, that will change, but Villas-Boas was adamant that the gap between Chelsea and United last season was not as great as it seemed.

Nevertheless, United finished nine points ahead in May and have spent heavily, but Villas-Boas remained unfazed. "You have to recall that Chelsea went to United with a great chance to shorten that distance," Villas-Boas said.

"It was a one-off game and went United's way, but this club had an opportunity. It shows how competitive we can be."

That statement exposed the belief, not universally held, at Chelsea that Carlo Ancelotti was at fault for last season's failure to arrest the club's mid-season slump.

In Villas-Boas, Chelsea believe they have a different beast. Aged just 33, and preparing for only his second full season as a manager, he is regarded as a motivator, and a disciplinarian, more than just a coach.

For now Villas-Boas is continuing with the assertion that he will evaluate what he has. He will not, as has been discussed at the club, quickly embark on radical surgery -- while reminding everyone that £75m was spent in January with the acquisition of Fernando Torres and David Luiz.

"Clubs have to spend what they have to spend," he said. "United, without commenting a lot on what they've decided, some have chosen to end their career, and they've reinforced those sectors. Ourselves, we put a lot of money in (to the transfer market) in January."

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