Blues plan for future with move to finalise Anelka deal
CHELSEA will begin preparations for their Premier League title defence next week by finalising a new contract for Nicolas Anelka.
The France forward has agreed the terms of a new three-year deal worth £100,000 a week that he will sign before meeting up with Raymond Domenech's World Cup squad.
Chelsea are keen to keep the bulk of their squad together and have made it their priority to agree new deals with those players out of contract before turning their attention to new signings.
Anelka (31) has been a valuable member of Carlo Ancelotti's side this season, scoring 15 goals from a deep-lying position and leading the line in the absence of Didier Drogba, and his new contract means he is likely to end his career at the club he joined from Bolton Wanderers two-and-a-half years ago.
Representatives of midfielders Michael Ballack and Joe Cole will also be summoned to Stamford Bridge for talks, although their contract negotiations could prove more difficult.
Ballack (33) is seeking a two-year deal that would enable the midfield player to carry on playing for Germany until the 2012 European Championship, but has been offered only a one-year extension, and Chelsea are unwilling to meet Cole's pay demands.
The England midfield player is seeking parity with players such as Anelka and Michael Essien, on £100,000 a week, but the club will offer him no more than £85,000.
For someone who seemed destined for greatness when he was a boy, Cole has reached an important crossroads surprisingly early in his career, with his lack of game-time leaving the 28-year-old vulnerable to the impending cull in England's World Cup squad.
Chelsea are looking to offload several players to make room for new signings, with Deco, Juliano Belletti and Paulo Ferreira to be released and Ricardo Carvalho to be made available for sale.
Ancelotti revealed yesterday that he will meet owner Roman Abramovich next week to discuss the club's plans for strengthening the squad this summer.
"I didn't have the possibility to speak with Roman last week because we had a celebration after the game (at home to Wigan Athletic), but that wasn't the time to talk about next season," he said.
"He was very happy but we will meet again next week and then we will talk about the season.
"One of the aims of this season at the beginning was to give identity to this team, to show good play," Ancelotti continued. "And Chelsea improved its identity.
"It was a good season because we played good football, we gave enjoyment to our fans and to other people. The way Chelsea played was good for everyone." (© The Times, London)