Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea will break bank to get Fernando Torres

Chelsea are prepared to meet Liverpool's £50m valuation of Fernando Torres before the transfer window closes at 11pm tonight but the Premier League champions are hopeful they will not have to pay so much for the striker.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is personally overseeing the club's aggressive pursuit of Torres, whose official transfer request was rejected by Liverpool on Friday.

The London team are so far understood to have made two bids, of £28m and £35m, for Torres, both of which were rejected by Liverpool. But Chelsea will pay the fee — and ultimately fork out virtually he same again for the player’s wages.

Since Friday, both clubs have been jockeying for position ahead of today's deadline.

Chelsea have proposed including Daniel Sturridge in part-exchange, a move which has been rejected by Liverpool, who would prefer to see Frenchman Nicolas Anelka move to Anfield.

Chelsea, in turn, have played down suggestions that Anelka, whose current contract runs out next summer, might be part of the deal.

The Frenchman, who is 31, has made it a priority to play in the Champions League, having retired from international football after he was been banned by his national federation for his rebellion at the World Cup.

Anelka is Chelsea's leading scorer, having found the target 13 times this season. He spent part of the 2001-02 season on loan at Liverpool from Paris St-Germain, but the Reds decided against making the deal permanent.

Liverpool are aware that Anelka is available to play in the Europa League this season, while Suarez is ineligible having represented Ajax in the tournament.

Chelsea however have taken encouragement from the signs coming out of Liverpool that they are prepared to negotiate the terms of Torres' departure, which is a markedly different position from having said that the striker is not for sale.

Liverpool however are adamant that they do not want to sell. Their ideal scenario is for Torres to stay, rediscover his form at Anfield and develop a devastating new partnership with £23m signing Luis Suarez.

There is also a growing belief on Merseyside however that it might be better to cash in on Torres now, rather than keep an unhappy player at the club.

According to sources last night, Liverpool's American owner John W Henry has made contact with Aston Villa over a potential move for England winger Ashley Young, who would cost around £15m to 18m.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is keen to add some spark to his midfield, and believes that by adding Young to his side he would be able to use Joe Cole in a more central role. Liverpool are also hoping a deal for £8m can be completed for Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam.

Liverpool however are doggedly sticking to their valuation of £50m for Torres. That is the figure that is stated in a clause in Torres' contract, which allows him to leave for that sum this coming summer.

Chelsea believe that Liverpool might well accept a lower figure if it comes to it, now that Torres has made it abundantly clear that he wants to leave Anfield.

Chelsea know that to land Torres they will have to smash the current British transfer record, which stands at £32.5m for Robinho paid by Manchester City to Real Madrid in August 2008.

The 26-year-old trained on his own yesterday at Liverpool's Melwood training ground, after taking a two-day break in Spain, which had been agreed with the club long before he was at the centre of the current transfer wrangle.

Torres' decision to hand in a written transfer request on Friday has surprised everyone at Liverpool. It was well known that he was unhappy with life under the club's former owners but a new wave of optimism following Henry's £300m purchase last autumn and the subsequent decision to bring in Kenny Dalglish as manager in place of Roy Hodgson was thought to have signaled a change of heart.

As soon as he agreed to take over at Liverpool, Dalglish made it one of his priorities to tease out the best in Torres. That desire to help Torres rediscover his best form was behind Dalglish's determination to bring Suarez from Ajax during the current transfer window.

As a result, Dalglish is understood to be seriously annoyed by Torres' decision on Friday to try to push through a move to Chelsea, where he could see his wages rise from £110,000 a week to £170,000 a week.

Chelsea also still retain an interest in defender David Luiz of Benfica.

They thought a deal for £25.5m had been done, until the Portuguese club suddenly broke off negotiations on Friday, demanding more money.

However, indications from Portugal last night suggested Benfica were willing to talk again, and as the deal had been all but completed last week there is a chance it could be resurrected.

Chelsea had already agreed personal terms with Luiz and had secured a work permit for the Brazilian, who has only four caps for the national side.

Liverpool expect to announce today that the deal to buy Suarez will be finalised today after all the paperwork concerning his £23m move could not be completed on Friday.

The Uruguayan striker has passed a medical and the transfer is expected to be ratified later today.

Belfast Telegraph


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