Chelsea set to smash record for Torres
Anfield chiefs lining up Young as replacement for £50m man
Chelsea are planning to make a £45m cash offer for Fernando Torres today, which would smash the British transfer record and, they hope, secure his move to Stamford Bridge.
Add-ons to the deal would push it up to Liverpool's valuation of £50m for the 26-year-old, who submitted a transfer request on Friday.
The Premier League champions will make a final decision this morning on whether to deliver the offer or make a revised bid. The final decision will rest with owner Roman Abramovich.
Liverpool were in talks yesterday with Aston Villa to sign Ashley Young and are understood to have had a £12m offer rejected for the midfielder. It is believed that they will make a renewed bid today -- if they agree to sell Torres -- which would match Villa's valuation of £18m for a player who has just 18 months left on his contract.
It is understood that Liverpool co-owner John W Henry was in direct talks with Villa counterpart Randy Lerner over the weekend. Henry also held talks with Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli as the club started to make contingency plans should Torres go today.
Liverpool had hoped to sign Nicolas Anelka if they agreed a deal to sell Torres, but the striker is not keen on leaving Stamford Bridge and Chelsea do not want him to go. The London club have offered Salomon Kalou to Liverpool after their suggestion of taking Daniel Sturridge on loan was rejected out-of-hand. Liverpool do not want either player.
Anelka would fit the bill and could play in the Europa League, but as he also has less than 18 months left on his contract, Liverpool would not value him at any more than £6-8m and so would still want at least £42m in cash for Torres.
Although Liverpool insist they do not want to sell Torres, they will reluctantly agree to a deal if their valuation is met. There may also be a hectic scramble to sign a striker as a replacement -- with both Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente and Seville's Alvaro Negredo on their list of targets -- but it would appear unlikely that a deal could be struck before the window closes at 11.0pm.
It may well be that Liverpool will concentrate on completing the £23m signing of Luis Suarez -- personal terms were agreed last night -- and take Young from Villa for the rest of the campaign. That would leave them short of strikers but would also leave a significant transfer budget for the summer.
Torres met with Dalglish and Comolli at Liverpool's training ground yesterday -- the Spanish international's agent Jose Antonio Martin was also in the city -- to reiterate his desire to leave after submitting a formal transfer request on Friday evening.
Liverpool are adamant that their valuation of Torres remains at £50m and that Chelsea, who initially offered only £28m before increasing that bid to closer to £40m, will have to meet with cash or a cash-plus-player deal.
Liverpool's hard-headed stance -- considering new signings and countenancing Torres' departure -- represents a shift since Friday when Dalglish informed the club's owners and Chelsea's negotiators that he totally opposed the player's departure this month.
However, that was before the transfer request was submitted. Liverpool know Torres has been unsettled for some time, and that Chelsea have wanted to sign him for more than a year. Indeed, he was close to asking to leave last summer.
If Torres fails to secure a move away from Anfield today, it would leave him in an awkward position for the rest of the campaign, especially as the groundswell of opinion from supporters is that he should go.
It has also transpired that the impetus for Chelsea's move now, so late in the window, has come because they have been encouraged to bid by the player and his representatives. It was made clear to Chelsea last week that Torres wanted out of Anfield.
Torres returned to Liverpool on Saturday evening after being given permission to go home to Spain before he submitted his transfer request, and was at the club's training ground yesterday,.
He trained away from the rest of the first team but Liverpool insist this was pre-planned and it was not a punishment for the player.
Although Torres does not have a formal release clause in his contract, he does have an agreement with Liverpool that he can go if a club offers £50m. However, that issue is now immaterial as Liverpool will sell if their valuation is met and, just as crucially, they can sign up replacements. (© Daily Telegraph, London)