David Luiz is expected to arrive at Chelsea today to complete a £21.5m move from Benfica, to become the Premier League champions' most expensive signing in almost five years, writes Jason Burt.
The club were remaining cautious yesterday, but a hearing has been provisionally set for tomorrow in London for the 23-year-old Brazilian to apply for a work permit. One source close to the negotiations said the deal was "almost complete" last night.
A complication has been Roman Abramovich's personal involvement in the negotiations after he promised manager Carlo Ancelotti that he would get the resources he needed to compete.
Luiz has been Ancelotti's number one transfer target during this window and the Italian will be hugely relieved if the versatile defender finally arrives. Luiz is a centre-half but can also play at left-back, or even on the right flank or as a holding midfielder. The key to his expected signing has been Benfica's desperation to cash in on one of their star players.
Luiz's agent Guiliano Bertolucci arrived in London last Friday along with Benfica president Luis Felipe Vieira to conduct negotiations with Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay.
Vieira had hoped to demand an even higher fee, but Chelsea are adamant that they will not pay over the odds, and their hand has been strengthened as Manchester City have decided not to enter the bidding. Even so, the fee will be the highest Chelsea have paid since buying Andrei Shevchenko from AC Milan for almost £31m in the summer of 2006, and Luiz will become the fifth player to join the club for more than £20m. Benfica had also suggested taking a Chelsea player in part-exchange but this has been resisted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)