The January transfer madness took a bizarre turn last night as Chelsea turned their attention to veteran Stoke striker Peter Crouch as they cast their net wider to find a back-up to the unreliable goalscoring of Alvaro Morata and his current understudy Michy Batshuayi.
Crouch, 37 this month, is one of a list of names the club had in mind for this transfer window. It included West Ham's Andy Carroll, who was yesterday ruled out of action with an ankle injury that could yet necessitate surgery and a four-month lay-off. The template of a proven Premier League goalscorer, with target-man qualities, is one which Chelsea have pursued in recent weeks, although any Crouch deal would present problems.
The former England international signed a one-year contract extension at Stoke in November with an option for another year and has returned to the first team during their recent problems.
Ideally, Chelsea would like a loan deal until the end of the season, but even if Stoke were prepared to let Crouch go after seven years, they would first need a replacement. New manager Paul Lambert has traditionally used a target-man style forward.
Other options considered by Chelsea have been Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke and the Spaniard Fernando Llorente, who joined Tottenham Hotspur over going to Stamford Bridge in the summer, when he left Swansea.
Chelsea's short-term thinking suggests they do not wish to commit to major changes with manager Antonio Conte's future unresolved. Crouch was a Chelsea fan and ball boy growing up and was at their 1994 FA Cup final with Manchester United.
Carroll's ankle problem was scanned by West Ham yesterday morning after he was unable to train and the results highlighted a problem. Carroll is, therefore, expected to be out for between four to six weeks but further medical assessment is needed to decide the appropriate treatment.
The worst-case scenario for the 29-year-old would be surgery, which could rule him out for up to four months.
West Ham were resistant to Chelsea’s attempts to take Carroll on loan until the summer – even if the London club were also willing to send Batshuayi in the opposite direction.
Instead, West Ham were willing to listen to offers to buy Carroll, who has 18 months left on his contract, and a bid of around £20 million (€23m) would probably have been acceptable.
Carroll is understood to have wanted to move to Chelsea and is said to be devastated after suffering yet another injury.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have learned that the first phase of a Fifa investigation into the club cited 25 cases of boys under the age of 18 allegedly being signed from overseas despite not meeting the permitted exemptions threshold.
The governing body has a ban on the international transfer of minors, with a few exceptions, and could potentially sanction the club with a transfer embargo.
In particular, Fifa are understood to be looking at the case of Bertrand Traore, now 22 and at Lyon, who was photographed playing for Chelsea aged 16.
The club have always maintained they had an agreement with the Premier League and the FA that allowed Traore to play as a triallist.
Elsewhere, Juventus’ chief executive Giuseppe Marotta has confirmed the Serie A club are negotiating with Emre Can and promised they will do “all they can” to sign the Liverpool midfielder this summer.
Can will become a free agent when his current Anfield contract expires at the end of June and he is currently able to negotiate pre-contract terms with European clubs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)