Football: Chelsea sign up Casiraghi for pounds 5.4m

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The Independent Online
CHELSEA last night broke their club transfer record with the signing of Pierluigi Casiraghi - and insisted that Mark Hughes still has a future at Stamford Bridge.

The European Cup-Winners' Cup holders splashed out pounds 5.4m on the Italian international in a four-year deal that reunites him with his former team- mate Gianluca Vialli.

But it was the future of the former Manchester United striker Hughes that diverted attention away from the capture of the 29-year-old striker from Lazio. Casiraghi's arrival leaves the Blues spoilt for choice up front with the player-manager Vialli, Hughes, Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo also fighting for a place in the side.

Hughes, ironically named by Casiraghi as one of his favourite players, is the oldest of the strikers at 34 and has already been forced to accept that he cannot command a regular place in the starting 11. But the Chelsea managing director, Colin Hutchinson, was adamant that Hughes is part of Vialli's plans for a serious assault on the Premiership next season.

And he revealed he would be holding talks with the Welsh international at some stage next week in an effort to resolve his future. "Mark Hughes and I had a long conversation in Martinique last week," said Hutchinson. "I talked to him this morning and he is fully aware of the situation.

"His situation will be looked at in about a week's time and I would like to stress Mark has one year left on his contract. There will be no moves to push Mark out of Chelsea."

The speculation regarding Hughes' future somewhat overshadowed the arrival of Casiraghi, who Chelsea had been tracking for over a year. He had also attracted the interest of Blackburn, the European Cup winners, Real Madrid, and the Serie A side Palma.

The former Juventus and Lazio player was delighted to have put pen to paper before jetting off last night on holiday where he will be forced to watch the World Cup on television having been excluded from Cesare Maldini's squad.

"There was interest from other clubs but nothing official. This was the offer that pleased me the most and I am very pleased to have it signed and sealed," said Casiraghi. "It was important that Mr Vialli was here and that was one of the reasons I decided to come. I played with Vialli for one year in Juventus and it was a great forward line.

"I know him as a player and not a manager, but he is a great player and he has had some great results in his first season as a manager and I think he will be a great manager.

"It will be an objective for next season for us to put in a strong title challenge. I had been at Lazio for the last five years and with the changes that were going on it was time to have a change of scenery."

Hutchinson also reiterated that another Italian, the midfielder Roberto Di Matteo, was not for sale at any price despite an approach from the Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti, while tying up the deal for Casiraghi.

"He broached the subject and he was told very bluntly that Di Matteo is not for sale," said Hutchinson. "He told me every player has his price, what is Di Matteo's? I told him that he is not for sale at any price."

Hutchinson also revealed that there had been several "tentative approaches" for Flo but they have also been turned down, and also that a possible deal for Marcel Desailly from Milan was still on the cards and that he could be meeting the French midfielder next week.

The transfer saga involving Chelsea and Brian Laudrup from Rangers is still on-going but Chelsea's lawyers have written to the European Commission, who in turn will contact all interested parties next week to tell Rangers that Laudrup is entitled to move without compensation and that the Glasgow club could face a fine of up to 10 per cent of the value of the company if they do not comply.