The January transfer window exploded into life yesterday with Bolton rejecting Chelsea's 11m bid for Nicolas Anelka and Middlesbrough in talks to sign the prolific Brazilian striker Afonso Alves for a fee of between 12m-15m.
Bolton are holding out for 15m for Anelka even though they are keen to cash in on the 28-year-old who has made clear that he wants to leave the Reebok this month despite signing a new four-year contract only last summer.
With Chelsea losing Didier Drogba, who has again reiterated his desire to quit the club at the end of the season, to the African Nations Cup and Andrei Shevchenko still not fully fit, Bolton reason that their need is such that they will pay close to the higher fee. They left Anelka out of their FA Cup tie on Saturday to preserve his transfer value and sources claim he is now certain to leave the club with Hearts' Lithuanian striker Andrius Velicka being lined up as a possible replacement.
Bolton, who were yesterday continuing discussions with Portsmouth to sign wing-back Matthew Taylor for 3m, are also hoping that other clubs will enter the race to sign Anelka, who has scored 11 times this season and arrived from Fenerbahce for 8m in August 2006. Despite interest from both Manchester clubs and, previously, West Ham United, it is understood that Portsmouth are Chelsea's only serious rivals although there could be a shock move by Newcastle United. However, neither club want to get into a bidding war with Chelsea.
Manchester City have also shown strong interest in Alves, whose wage demands are less than some of their targets, and a delegation travelled to Amsterdam in December for talks, but Boro have now made the move to sign the 26-year-old. His expected arrival will start the debate over whether Stewart Downing stays at the Riverside as Middlesbrough may want to cash in on the winger, who is yet to sign a new contract, to help finance the deal which will almost double their transfer record.
Gareth Southgate, the Boro manager, would not be drawn following the weekend FA Cup victory over Bristol City on whether or not he had rekindled his interest in Alves but The Independent understands that talks are taking place with the player's advisers and Heerenveen, on a possible deal. Boro lie 15th in the table and their need for a reliable striker is desperate as only bottom club Derby County have scored fewer goals this season.
Alves has remained in Brazil after Christmas, with the Dutch club's blessing, even though the rest of the Heerenveen squad has returned to training following the winter break. A deal to sell him to rivals AZ Alkmaar for 18m (13.4m) fell through only last week once Alves became aware that there was, once again, Premier League interest in him. Boro had lined up Alves, who has scored 48 goals in just 50 appearances in the Eredivisie, to replace Aiyegbeni Yakubu when the Nigerian was sold to Everton last summer.
As ever, most clubs are in the hunt for strikers this transfer window. Strong interest has been shown in Djibril Ciss, the former Liverpool forward who has been told he can leave Marseilles after a disappointing season so far. West Ham, who are willing to sell Bobby Zamora for 5m, have led the chase but would prefer to only take the French international on loan initially while Bolton, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur have also made inquiries. Liverpool have first option on the 26-year-old, who they sold for 6m, but are not interested in re-signing him.
Similarly West Ham are understood to have rejected the opportunity to sign Giles Barnes for 3m half of what they offered Derby for the 19-year-old winger last August. With Julien Faubert close to fitness West Ham sources say the club are not interested in Barnes this month. Bolton, meanwhile, are close to agreeing a loan deal to take midfielder Hossam Ghaly from Tottenham Hotspur until the end of the season with the Egyptian being excused duty at the African Nations Cup to sort out his future.
Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov, however, has insisted he does not want to leave the club this month. "It's getting absurd and I'm fed up of seeing my name in the papers all the time," the Bulgarian said.Reuse content