Barcelona preparing to pounce for unsettled Robben

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The Independent Online

Barcelona are tracking Arjen Robben's discontent at Chelsea and are planning to make an offer for the left-winger if he remains unsettled next summer.

The Catalan club are already confident that they will sign Arsenal's Thierry Henry and hope to also land Robben in what would be a re-shaped forward line.

Coach Frank Rijkaard is a known admirer of the 21-year-old Dutchman and has been looking to recruit a wide player for some time. He had an inquiry re-buffed last year for Chelsea's Damien Duff when it looked like he was not wanted at Stamford Bridge.

Despite the enmity between the two clubs, Chelsea, who attempted to sign Samuel Eto'o, may well be prepared to do a deal - especially if it involved an élite player, such as the Cameroon striker, moving in the other direction.

Robben has struggled with injury since his £12m transfer to Chelsea, with a broken ankle, a broken bone in his foot and hamstring problems testing his relationship with manager Jose Mourinho who has privately questioned his toughness.

Another player causing concern at Chelsea is Hernan Crespo. Jose Pekerman, the Argentina coach, has claimed that the striker picked up a calf strain against England because his club are guilty of not maintaining his fitness.

"It is difficult to understand a world-class striker not playing very often," Pekerman said. "Of course I would like to see him sharper and fitter in a World Cup."

He said that the injury - which has not prevented Crespo travelling to Qatar for Argentina's friendly - "came through not playing regularly, without a doubt".

If Robben were to leave Chelsea he would certainly not be sold to another Premiership club and Spain is understood to be his preferred destination, ahead of Italy.

Tottenham Hotspur's head coach, Martin Jol, was reported on a Dutch website, Football Zone, over the weekend as saying he would make a "mega bid" for Robben if "there are more problems surrounding" the player at Chelsea.

But although Jol has declared that Robben is the best Dutch player since Johan Cruyff, and would love to add him to his squad, he was mis-quoted by the website and has no intention of making a bid.

Jol does, however, remain interested in signing the Netherlands striker Dirk Kuyt from Feyenoord and it appears that the 25-year-old will move to the Premiership in the January transfer window.

Spurs had a bid for the forward, who shone in his country's defeat against Italy at the weekend, accepted just two days before the close of the summer transfer window. However, the player, who is Feyenoord's captain, said that it was too late to leave then.

It is understood that it would take up to €16m (£11m) to sign Kuyt, although a deal closer to €12m may be agreed. A complication for Spurs - who would offload Robbie Keane on signing a replacement - is that they may well face competition from Arsenal.

The Gunners' manager, Arsène Wenger, recently watched Kuyt who would be a cheaper option than bidding for Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres.

Wenger also remains interested in another Dutch-based player, the midfielder Steven Pienaar who is likely to leave Ajax in January after refusing to sign a new contract.

The 23-year-old South African would be a free agent in the summer and Ajax are keen to recoup a fee for him and would accept €1m. Fulham and Manchester City are also in the running. Pienaar, who has attracted clubs in Spain, Italy and Germany also, is believed to prefer a move to England.

However, he may prove to be a difficult acquisition as it is understood that one of his contract demands will be that he is played as a central midfielder, rather than on the right.

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