Alex deal on hold as Cahill edges closer to Chelsea
As Gary Cahill's move to Chelsea inched closer yesterday, the departure from Stamford Bridge of another centre-half, Alex, remained on hold.
The Brazilian international has been the subject of a £3 million bid from Queen's Park Rangers but Chelsea insist the 29-year-old is worth more. Indeed, many observers would argue he is of a similar level to Cahill, for whom Chelsea agreed a £7m fee with Bolton Wanderers a fortnight ago.
Cahill is three years younger, but unlike Alex he is out of contract in June. However, while Chelsea feel under no pressure to sell Alex for less than their valuation – it is the player who wants to leave – they are keen to get his salary off the wage bill.
That is believed to be £100,000 a week which, if matched, would make him the highest-paid player at Loftus Road by some distance, eclipsing Joey Barton's £70,000 a week. QPR are reluctant to match both Chelsea's price and Alex's wages, but are anxious to tie the deal up as soon as possible.
Good centre-halves are hard to find and Chelsea are keen to secure Cahill before Tottenham, Manchester United or Liverpool step in, but only on their terms, believed to be £50,000 a week.
Yesterday Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, said: "We're making good, solid progress. Hopefully it can be concluded soon and it should be soon, I hope this week."
However it would be difficult for negotiations to be concluded by 5pm today, the deadline for Cahill to play against Sunderland tomorrow. Cahill may then instead play against Manchester United for Bolton – which ironically may be more beneficial to Chelsea's lingering title prospects than playing at Stamford Bridge.
Josh McEachran will go on loan to Swansea after the weekend games, and Gael Kakuta's loan to Dijon continues to progress (the French club yesterday claimed, prematurely, it was done). But neither Didier Drogba nor Salomon Kalou, said Villas-Boas, would be leaving this transfer window.
"They will return from the Cup of African Nations to this club and hopefully we will hold on to them until the end of the season. That's our intention, and I think their willingness as well," Villas-Boas said.
Another player Villas-Boas insisted would not be leaving, despite reports linking him to Manchester United, was Frank Lampard.
"Frank is a player who is not available at any price," said the manager. Lampard's situation became an issue in September, since when he has lost his position as someone who invariably played all 90 minutes of every match, when fit.
In December, Lampard made it clear he believes he needs to play regularly. He said: "If anyone took that away from me I would probably feel a bit empty."
Lampard has started three of the last four games, scoring twice and Villas-Boas noted: "Frank is the fifth or sixth most-used player at Chelsea so he's involved all the time."
Villas-Boas added: "Frank, with the player he is and the history he represents, wants to be involved all the time but every player is competing for a place. Other players might be better placed in certain games, or in better form."
The next big test will come when the Chelsea team to play Manchester United is named on 5 February.