Abramovich contemplates loan deal for Wagner Love

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The Independent Online

Roman Abramovich is considering exploiting his links with Russian football by taking the Brazilian striker Wagner Love on loan in an attempt to bolster Chelsea's attacking options in the January transfer window.

The billionaire, who it was revealed yesterday has paid an extra $5m (£3.4m) to the Russian Football Union to guarantee the wages of the national coach Guus Huddink, has close links with CSKA Moscow, Wagner Love's club. Abramovich is friends with CSKA's president Evgeny Giner, who is also the head of the Russian professional football league which works closely with the national federation. There has been talk for some time of Wagner Love moving to the Premier League and Everton had hoped to secure the 24-year-old on a season's loan last summer.

However, CSKA made clear they wanted a fee, thought to be around £12m for the striker, who has just been named the Russian Premier League's Player of the Year, only the second foreigner to win the title, having scored 20 goals in 26 league games.

The Russian season has ended and does not start again until next spring, which has led to fresh discussions as to whether the player should move on, even if temporarily. Abramovich has considered making a loan offer and, despite Chelsea's public denials, it is understood the club have agreed to their manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's request to try to sign another striker.

Among the other names mentioned as potential new centre-forwards are the Egyptian Amr Zaki, currently on a season-long loan at Wigan Athletic, and Lyons' Karim Benzema, although the French international would command a substantial transfer fee.

Chelsea, as they attempt to balance their finances a little more, have also to decide whether they should sell to facilitate other deals. It is understood they would listen to offers for Florent Malouda, who almost left for Roma last summer, and Didier Drogba, despite claims from one of his agents yesterday that he wants to remain at Stamford Bridge and had not met officials from Internazionale.

A bid is also expected for Wayne Bridge from Manchester City, while the Greek club Panathinaikos, now coached by the former Chelsea assistant manager Henk Ten Cate, are understood to have made an informal inquiry about the central defender Alex. That may have been sparked by Chelsea's interest in another Brazilian, Thiago Silva, who is close to leaving Fluminese on a free transfer, with his contract expiring this month and has already sparked approaches from Inter and Milan. Robinho has also urged Manchester City to try to sign his fellow countryman.

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