| 8°C Dublin

£20m price tag put on Chelsea target Cahill

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been told that he would have to pay at least £20m to bring Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill to Stamford Bridge.

Cahill and Benfica's David Luiz are among the potential targets being considered by Chelsea to strengthen their defence following a dreadful run of just one win in their last eight Premier League games.

Abramovich, though, has not spent more than £20m on a player since the signing of Andrei Shevchenko in 2006 and has become far more circumspect in the transfer market, particularly with new Uefa rules looming on financial fair play.

Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti has already outlined a desire to sign new players this month and will carefully assess centre-back Alex when he returns from Brazil this week following treatment on his injured knee.

In the absence of Alex and Branislav Ivanovic, who was suspended for Sunday's 3-3 draw against Aston Villa, Chelsea were particularly vulnerable against aerial attacks. The defence was weakened earlier in the season by the absence of captain John Terry with a sciatic nerve problem.

Further reinforcements are clearly required and, although Cahill is among the options being considered, it is understood that Chelsea value him at no more than £15m. Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has already indicated that Cahill would be available at the right price and his manager, Owen Coyle, was specific yesterday in responding to the reports of interest from Chelsea.

"I don't fear bids for Gary or any other player," said Coyle. "Could it happen? Yes, because they are quality players. But when they move for £20m, £25m or £30m, which is what it takes to buy them, they would be better moving in the summer as they need a pre-season.

"If they move in January they are under too much pressure to make an immediate impact. I can sit here now very comfortably and say I have had no dialogue with any other football club regarding Gary."

Luiz also looks like being priced out of a possible move to Chelsea, with Benfica valuing their defender at more than £25m. The release clause in his contract is for £43m, a fee that would make him the world's most expensive defender in history.

Benfica claim that they have already rejected a £17m bid from Chelsea for Luiz, while Manchester City also made an offer last August and continue to monitor his progress.

It all means that Chelsea are likely to explore some rather less extravagant options, although there remains the usual premium on English centre-backs. Everton, for example, rejected a bid in excess of £10m for Phil Jagielka from Arsenal last summer, which eventually persuaded Arsene Wenger to recruit Laurent Koscielny from French league side Lorient and Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla, in Spain. Birmingham's Roger Johnson is another option for Chelsea.

Terry, who was partnered by 19-year-old Jeffrey Bruma against Villa, has outlined Chelsea's disappointment at recent performances but stressed that they can still win the Premier League.

"We were all hurting after the Arsenal game (a 3-1 defeat)," he said. "Nobody was ready to accept that and we don't want to experience it again. It was a difficult few weeks and we have to put it behind us.

"The top of the league is really open at the moment -- we saw that Manchester United and Arsenal were held to draws last week (against Birmingham and Wigan).


"We still have to play United twice and Manchester City have played more matches than us so we know there are plenty of opportunities for the teams in and around us to drop points again and we just have to make sure that we are picking up maximum points as often as we can.

"That has to be the aim at this club -- we are double winners, the best team in the country. With the amount of trophies we have lifted, the players we have and the quality of football we know what we are capable of, it's up to us.

"Now it's about returning to that consistency we are known for. Winning is the best feeling, so let's go on a run of games now, show our consistency, determination, hunger and fight to win this league again."

Bruma admitted that a lack of confidence and concentration had contributed to the deflating draw against Aston Villa. "We started quite well, 1-0 up, and after I think we started to lose a little bit of our confidence," he said. "We should have kept the ball and been strong in marking the guy who had a free header (Ciaran Clark for Villa's third goal). Everyone has their own marker and I was marking my man, maybe someone forgot this one." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent