Football: Emerson set for pounds 2.5m move to Chelsea

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CHELSEA ARE poised to complete the surprise pounds 2.5m signing of Sheffield Wednesday's Brazilian central defender Emerson Thome.

The sale may upset Wednesday's fans, who have had to contend with the loss of Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone within the last year. Although the two strikers both fell foul of the club's manager, Danny Wilson, Emerson has been a crowd favourite since his arrival at the club in April 1998.

Nicknamed "The Wall" because of his imposing physique, Emerson was signed by the former Wednesday manager, Ron Atkinson, following the defender's release from the Portuguese side Benfica. The 27-year-old has remained a virtual ever-present in the Owls team since, although speculation mounted over his future during the summer as he was linked with potential moves to Blackburn and Tottenham.

But Chelsea have now stepped in to take advantage of Wednesday's plight at the foot of the Premiership, as well as the club's desperate financial situation. The Wednesday chairman, Dave Richards, recently revealed that the Owls are pounds 18m in debt, with Wilson having to sell before he could enter the transfer market to bolster his squad.

Lazio were reported yesterday to be ready to thwart any British attempt to secure the services of the European Footballer of the Year, Rivaldo.

According to reports in Italy, the Serie A giants are ready to pay a world record transfer sum of pounds 39m to sign the 27-year-old Brazilian from Barcelona. The Gazetta dello Sport reported that the club president, Sergio Cragnotti, is ready to pay such a fee to acquire Rivaldo, despite opposition from the player's present coach, the Dutchman Louis Van Gaal.

Lazio played down the reports last night. "Rivaldo is a great player," the president, Sergio Cragnotti, said. "But the reports that we want to buy him are just fantasy market talk."

The transfer could be financed by the sale of the Chilean striker Marcelo Salas and the Italian defender Alessandro Nesta. The current world record transfer fee is the pounds 29m paid by Internazionale to buy striker Christian Vieri from Lazio in June.