Chelsea on track to raid Lokomotiv engine room
The growing influence at Chelsea of one of Roman Abramovich's closest friends is evidenced in the club's interest in signing two players based in Russia.
Chelsea are considering making a move in the January transfer window for the midfielders – Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Branislav Ivanovic – with the pair set to cost around £20m, and the proposed deals being partly negotiated by German Tkachenko.
Tkachenko is a Russian businessman who made his money in the aluminium markets but is now the president of a company, ProSports Management, which represents a number of footballers.
His clients include the Reading central defender Andre Bikey. Tkachenko was also, until recently, president of the Russian football club, Krylya Sovetov Samara but found it a financial drain.
Crucially Tkachenko is also thought to have been instrumental in the discontent that grew in the Abramovich circles over the former Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho.
He was heavily involved when Abramovich first acquired Chelsea but was "off the scene" for a while before re-emerging last year at Stamford Bridge, according to sources. The dislike he felt for Mourinho was said to be mutual.
The jostling for position at Chelsea has continued unabated over the past year with Tkachenko hosting the manager, Avram Grant, at Sunday's game between Lokomotiv Moscow and Tomsk. Grant flew to Moscow immediately after Saturday's 6-0 victory over Manchester City to run the rule over Bilyaletdinov and Ivanovic who both play for Lokomotiv.
The former starred in Russia's recent European Championship qualification victory over England in Moscow while the latter, a Serb, was captain of his country's Under-21 team in last summer's championships and was named in the team of the tournament.
Ivanovic, who is being tracked by a number of Italian clubs and can also play in defence, has come highly recommended by Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's chief scout, who also gets on well with Tkachenko, who is himself a friend of another agent, Pini Zahavi.
Zahavi is hoping that with Mourinho now gone and Grant in charge, his own influence at Stamford Bridge will grow.
Grant, whose side host Leicester City in the Carling Cup tonight, is acutely aware that he needs to acquire reinforcements with the African Nations Cup coming up in January and February. He is set to lose Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou.
The loss of Drogba – with Milan, Internazionale and Juventus all expressing interest in the unsettled striker – is set to be permanent next summer unless he can be appeased.
Yesterday Grant said: "Didier is an important player for us. I don't think you've seen another striker better than him in the rest of the world today.
"He is very important and in good shape. He is getting better from game to game, but what is important now is the present for the next two months and then we will think about the African Nations Cup.
"We think about the situation all the time but we cannot do many things about this. He needs to go but we are thinking about all the options."
Meanwhile the agent of the Villarreal coach, Manuel Pellegrini, has claimed that the Argentine was approached to take over at Chelsea next season. "A short time ago some people from Chelsea asked about him [Pellegrini] and it is something that could firm up in the future," Alberto Poletti was quoted as saying in the Spanish sports daily, AS.