Abramovich to break bank in summer
CHELSEA'S lavish spending will continue into the summer, with owner Roman Abramovich keen to attract the cream of Europe's top young players to Stamford Bridge before UEFA's financial fair play rules kick in.
Abramovich's decision to authorise the club's dramatic £75m capture of Fernando Torres and David Luiz on the final day of the January transfer window signifies a marked change in the club's transfer policy of recent years.
With Monday's extravagance, Abramovich spent more in one day than he had done in the previous three years with Chelsea, after finally being convinced of the need to inject fresh blood into the Premier League champions' ageing squad.
The indications are that the policy of rejuvenating the playing pool is to be carried on at the end of the season. And, and with that in mind, Chelsea are continuing to monitor several players as potential new signings.
Their extensive list of possible targets include Dutch right-back Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax, young Belgian internationals Eden Hazard from Lille and Romelu Lukaku of Anderlecht, Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik of Napoli and French winger Dimitri Payet of St Etienne.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has earmarked a new right-back as a priority, and the club are highly likely to bid for Van der Wiel, who celebrates his 23rd birthday today.
Van der Wiel has been at Ajax since he was eight-years-old, has 20 caps for the Netherlands and impressed during last summer's World Cup. He almost joined Bayern Munich for £14m last year, and would cost closer to £20m this time around.
Before the signings of Luiz and Torres, Chelsea's sporting director Frank Arnesen admitted: "Gregory is on our No 1 list, but not currently at the top. If we're serious, nothing will happen until the summer."
Chelsea are also keeping a very close eye on the development of 17-year-old Lukaku, who many see as the ideal long-term replacement for Didier Drogba. He is already a full Belgian international, and Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck claimed yesterday that he rebuffed Chelsea's approaches during the recent window for Lukaku, putting a price tag of £25.5m on him.
Van Holsbeeck said: "Chelsea wanted to buy this winter. We said no. He is not ready, and we still keep one to two seasons. His price? €30m (£25.5m)."
Udinese's Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez is another player that Chelsea have made enquiries about and will consider bidding for in the summer.
The recruitment drive will lead to more senior players on high wages leaving the club in the summer, following last year's clear-out in which five first-team regulars departed.
This year's exodus is likely to include experienced internationals such as Jose Bosingwa, Paulo Ferreira and Yuri Zhirkov.
Younger players such as Jeffrey Bruma and Gail Kakuta, who has been loaned to Fulham, could also be sold if the price is right. Young Italian striker Fabio Borini is almost certain to move on, with Parma his most likely destination.
Chelsea captain John Terry said yesterday that the club's £75m spending heralds a return to the time when Abramovich was happy to spend big.
Terry said: "To sign Torres and Luiz is a huge statement for the club. It has let everyone know we're in the market again, we're buying and competing with Manchester City, who have been spending an awful lot.
"Everyone has been going on about the ageing players and we have just brought in two very young players who are hopefully going to be around the club for a long time.
"No one is getting too carried away but everyone is upbeat. It sets a massive tone. Everyone is fighting for places with some big games coming up. It gives the manager some great options."
Torres (26) is to make his Chelsea debut against former club Liverpool on Sunday.
Terry, who has been part of the defence against which Torres has scored seven goals in eight games for Liverpool, said: "We have had some great battles. Fernando is one of the strongest out there.
"His pace is frightening, his heading is unbelievable for his height and his finishing is top-drawer, as we have seen against us a few times. I'm just delighted because there were rumours that a few other clubs had been chasing him." (© Independent News Service)