Chelsea captain John Terry has suggested that his club will be handing Arsenal a potentially crucial advantage in next season's Premier League title race by sanctioning the £11m sale of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea finished 12 points ahead of Arsene Wenger's team last season but, with Arsenal now hoping to announce the signing of Cech (right) before the end of the week, Terry has warned that it could be a decisive moment.
"There's talk of Arsenal signing Petr Cech and, if they do get him, he will strengthen them for sure," said Terry. "He will save them 12 or 15 points a season."
Terry's comments, as well as the reservations of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, however, have done nothing to derail the progress of talks between the two clubs.
As of last night, negotiations were at an advanced stage and a deal should be complete in the coming days, although formal confirmation is not expected until either the end of this week or early next.
"Transfer of Petr Cech is not closed yet - we will inform the public as soon as it happens," said Cech's agent Viktor Kolar.
Terry's intervention follows Mourinho's very public admission that he would prefer Chelsea to hold Cech to his contract for another season rather than let him join a rival like Arsenal.
It is a situation that underlines the limitations of Mourinho's power at Chelsea, even after winning two trophies this season, but also the strength of the relationship between Cech and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Chelsea over the past 11 years, Cech has simply been told that he can join the club of his choice provided a suitable offer is forthcoming. Cech wants to stay in the Premier League and his family are settled in London.
Wenger became aware of Cech's availability during the middle of last season and, after dropping Wojciech Szczesny following his mistakes in the 2-0 defeat against Southampton on New Year's Day, has been reviewing his goalkeeper situation constantly.
Although Colombia international David Ospina performed solidly in the final months of the season, he lacks the stature or physical presence of Cech.
Arsenal have also been without a genuinely world-class goalkeeper since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008, or arguably even David Seaman in 2003.
Now 33, Cech believes that he can play at the highest level for potentially another five years and will be offered a deal in excess of £100,000-a-week.
"Excited about signing of @PetrCech by Arsenal - a truly great goalkeeper joining a truly great club," wrote Bob Wilson last night on Twitter. Wilson is Arsenal's former goalkeeper coach and a good friend of Wenger.
Terry's warning on TalkSport yesterday was also intriguing, especially as his comment about Cech's potential worth to Arsenal did not follow a direct question about his long-time team-mate.
"He's been an unbelievable professional and was excellent in the games he played," said Terry. "I'm sure if he does leave the club, which nobody wants to see but we understand he wants to play football, he's going to be sorely missed and will improve any side he goes to."
Mourinho decided last summer to make Thibaut Courtois his first-choice goalkeeper and Terry also praised how Cech handled that situation.
"The two of them are up there with the best goalkeepers in the world," he said. "To take Petr out of the team, you have to be a great talent. When you get left out of the team it can be hard to accept but, when he came in, he was exceptional."
Terry expects Chelsea to make "a couple" of signings themselves this summer but thinks that Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal will all pose an even greater threat next season.
"I feel Arsenal and Man United will be very strong," he said. "Man City were a little way off. They maybe feel they have to strengthen more than anyone else. We all know that second year everyone wants to beat the champions. It becomes even harder.
"To be top the whole way through the season was an exceptional thing to do.
"You can't dwell on that, you get a couple of days to celebrate and it's finished now. We have to start concentrating on next season and try to improve on that again."
Terry has also said that he believes both Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane have ambitions to play in the Champions League and that, amid respective interest from City and United, that their huge valuation is fair.
"I know Raheem has taken a bit of stick recently," Terry said. "I was extremely impressed by him and how good he was - I didn't realise until playing against him three or four times last season.
"He is an exceptional player and, at times, I think he has been unfairly done by. He's a young player, he wants to play at the very top, for the very best.
"The same with Kane, by far the best striker I played against last year." (© Daily Telegraph, London)