Chelsea hope to today complete the signing of Robinho for a fee of £25.5m, ending their summer-long pursuit of the Brazilian international who has been identified by manager Luiz Felipe Scolari as the final piece of the jigsaw for his reshaped squad this season.
Robinho was last night put on stand-by by his club Real Madrid to fly to London with his agent Wagner Ribeiro for a medical later today after they finally closed in on a deal to sign his replacement. Real agreed terms with Chelsea for Robinho's sale last week – and personal terms with the player for a four-year contract were finalised some time ago – but they insisted that the striker would not be released until they bought.
Matters moved on apace yesterday with Real opening talks with Villarreal after agreeing to meet the £12.6m buy-out clause in the contract of the highly-promising Spanish international Santi Carzola. Real are also understood to have bid for Valencia's David Villa, who has also been under consideration at Chelsea, but it is the deal involving Santi Carzola, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder, which is crucial to Robinho's future.
"We are very close," said a source involved in the deal last night. "It is true to say it is dependent on Carzola being signed but that is looking very positive at this time. He wants to go to Real Madrid and Robinho wants to come to Chelsea and I think it will now happen although things can change very quickly."
Chelsea are understood to be cautiously optimistic that a deal will be completed within the next two days so that Robinho, who has made no secret of his desire to move to Stamford Bridge, can be included in their squad for Sunday's league meeting at home to Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea are also delighted that they have managed to avoid meeting Real's unrealistic demands for the player having had an initial bid of £19.65m rejected. The Spanish champions, at one time, wanted almost twice that fee.
The signing will increase Scolari's attacking options which have been limited by Didier Drogba's injury and the departure of Andrei Shevchenko to Milan. It's understood that the Brazilian would like to play Robinho off a main striker, currently Nicolas Anelka, although he could also play in a wide position which may, ultimately, not be good news for Joe Cole whose demands for a new contract have been rebuffed.
Of more immediate concern is the future of Shaun Wright-Phillips. The England international was told he could leave Chelsea at the end of last season and throughout the transfer window it appeared that his most likely destination would be Portsmouth. Wright-Phillips was allowed to hold informal talks, with Chelsea's knowledge, with their manager Harry Redknapp but Portsmouth's suggestions of a £10m bid have yet to materialise.
Redknapp is believed to be highly frustrated by the state of affairs, which has prompted the rumours that he may be seeking a return to his former club West Ham United. It now appears that Everton and Manchester City have moved ahead of Portsmouth, who have lost both their opening League games, in the bidding.
Scolari likes Wright-Phillips but has decided he is not part of his plans especially as the manager is determined to carry through his claim that he will vastly reduce the size of Chelsea's squad. The club is relaxed about the winger's future having fielded a £9m bid from City and an offer to take Wright-Phillips on loan for a season with an option to buy from Everton. It's understood that Wright-Phillips favours a move to Everton although, as of last night, no deal had been struck. If a loan move is possible it may reignite Portsmouth's interest.
With Robinho, Scolari will increase the Portuguese-speaking contingent in his squad to seven having inherited Alex, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Juliano Belletti – although he is available for transfer and has been offered on loan to Benfica – with Jose Bosingwa and Deco arriving this summer.
Signing Robinho will also conclude a complex transfer for Chelsea and represent a triumph for the agent Pini Zahavi who has continually pushed the deal this summer even when it appeared doomed to failure. Robinho has also complied with all of Chelsea's demands in first rejecting a new contract offer from Real and then, as he was asked to, going public with his demand to leave the club which was met with hostility by the supporters.
While coach Bernd Schuster has continually spoken optimistically about Robinho staying, Real's president Ramon Calderon even felt moved to accuse the player of a "complete lack of respect" for his efforts to leave the club. The fans heckled and jeered his name during a recent match against Valencia while Robinho has attempted to keep a low-profile.
However Real are hardly an innocent party having angered Robinho by offering him to Manchester United in their failed attempt to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.
Meanwhile, Shevchenko has vowed to put his difficult spell at Chelsea behind him after completing his move back to Milan. He passed a medical at Milan's Milanello training complex yesterday to put the finishing touch to his return to the club he left in 2006.
Shevchenko spent a testing two years in London following a £30million move from the Rossoneri, scoring just nine times in two Premier League campaigns, and has vowed to do his utmost to get back to his best.
"Now I have returned home, we will not look back anymore but forwards," Shevchenko said. "I will give anything to score immediately. I want to start again. I hope that the injuries I had in recent seasons won't be repeated, but here I have everything [I need] to do well and it depends only on me."
Shevchenko spent seven seasons at the San Siro before his move to the Premier League and he is delighted to be returning to Milan. He is looking forward to facing their city rivals Internazionale, in a derby which will have added spice with Shevchenko's former Chelsea manager, the Portuguese Jose Mourinho at the Nerazzurri helm. He said: "I always felt really good whenever that match happened, I hope that it can still be like that."
Shevchenko had nothing but warm praise for the Blues. "I would like to thank Chelsea Football Club for all the support you gave me during my tim1e at the club," he said. "I would also like to express my gratitude to Roman Abramovich for all his help and encouragement."