Bolton omit Anelka to protect prize asset

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The Independent Online

Someone had written "Nick Anelka" in the visitors' book at Chelsea's training ground yesterday. Although the club later denied that the 28-year-old striker was on the premises and if he had been, he would have abbreviated his name to "Nic", without the "k" his 10m transfer from Bolton Wanderers moved a step closer when it was announced that he would not play in today's FA Cup tie against Sheffield United at the Reebok Stadium.

Bolton are not expected to jeopardise the interest in their prize asset by Cup-tieing him in a competition which means less to them than Premier League survival. Instead, with Kevin Davies suspended, the fit-again Ricardo Vaz Te is expected to face the Blades.

Having quoted a 15m fee for Anelka, Bolton are not going to be bounced into a deal by Chelsea, especially not until they know how serious any other bidders will be. The likelihood remains, however, that a deal to take the Frenchman to Stamford Bridge will be concluded before the end of the month.

"[Dimitar] Berbatov and Kaka were also in there," joked Chelsea's manager, Avram Grant, when asked about the rogue signature. "Maybe he's here, I don't know. He's not here."

Asked when he expected to make any signings, Grant said: "There is a lot of speculation but there is no news at the moment." The key phrase there, as Chelsea are known to be hoping to sign up to four players, including the versatile Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic, was "at the moment".

Grant also said that no one would be sold this month, including the defender Wayne Bridge, who has been linked with Liverpool. "We're thinking about more than this," he said. "We're thinking about the next few seasons and maybe beyond."

Activity is expected to crank up next week, once Chelsea lose players to the African Cup of Nations. One dilemma is whether to play Didier Drogba, who is now fit, against Queen's Park Rangers today. If he plays he will be called up by the Ivory Coast.

QPR, the Championship strugglers, have recently been on a Chelsea-style recruitment spree of their own and may yet add to their numbers with a move for Patrick Ogunsoto, a Nigerian striker who plays for Westerlo in the Belgian league and is available for 300,000.

Of equal if not greater concern for Grant is the state of John Terry's foot. The initial assessment of a six-week recovery after he broke three bones against Arsenal on 16 December has been stretched to eight. Chelsea deny reports that their captain will miss the rest of the season.

Terry will be reassessed when he arrives back from a holiday in Dubai. Grant said this was according to schedule. "Nothing has changed," he said. "He wasn't supposed to be running this quickly. He cannot run yet. After four weeks or five weeks, maybe he'll be running, exactly as we planned."

The Bayern Munich president, Franz Beckenbauer, has said that the former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho would be a good choice to take over when Ottmar Hitzfeld steps down at the end of the season.

"Why not Mourinho?" Beckenbauer said. "He could take a language course until the summer. We need a top guy."

Mourinho is currently learning German.

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