Chelsea are signing Juan Sebastian Veron from Manchester United in a £13.5m deal as their new owner, Roman Abramovich, moves fast for a new playmaker.
While the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Stephen Gerrard, Damien Duff and Francesco Totti remain on Chelsea's wish list, the Argentinian midfielder will head for Stamford Bridge this week after talks between the clubs tied up the deal on Saturday.
Veron, who was also a target for Juventus, is being sold at less than half what United paid for him two seasons ago, but his chances of a game next season would have decreased with the imminent arrival of Ronaldinho. Chelsea's bid was more than the Italian clubs keen on Veron were willing to pay or any fee that Barcelona could muster.
Veron will also accept the switch as he has been pushed to the fringes at United and can now play a role more suited to him at Stamford Bridge. Abramovich moved fast for Veron as hopes of signing Juventus's Edgar Davids faded despite several attempts to agree a price for the Dutchman.
United's efforts to sign Ronaldinho have been boosted by the news that Paris St-Germain have turned down the only other offer for the Brazilian. The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, should finally clinch the deal after Barcelona's swap offer was thrown out by the PSG coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, because he did not want the players on offer. Now the French club have little option but to accept the United offer of around £10m up front, a further £5m guaranteed and possible bonuses worth a further £5m.
PSG need the money and the Barça deal was clearly unfeasible yesterday after Halilhodzic rejected the offer of the Argentinian playmaker Juan Roman Requelme and Philippe Christanval. The French centre-half is now likely to head for Bolton on loan for a year after the Wanderers manager, Sam Allardyce, set up a deal with Barça, who will pay part of his wages.
United have had an £11m bid for Real Betis's Joaquin Sanchez turned down. United offered cash plus Diego Forlan for the right-winger who claims he will be "better than Beckham one day". United's chief executive Peter Kenyon has been negotiating for a week, but the Betis president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera has rejected all offers.
However, Joaquin, who returns from his holiday tomorrow, wants to go to Old Trafford and the deal is still on despite Ronaldinho's projected move.
The former Football League chairman Keith Harris has claimed that Abramovich was interested in buying United, but rejected the idea because the club would have cost him around £700m. Harris, who in his profession as an investment banker was Chelsea's advisor on the eventual takeover deal, says that the Russian billionaire did a "great deal of research" into which club he wanted.
He says Arsenal and Tottenham were almost certainly on that list, but both were rejected along with United. He said: "There was a great deal of research done by him and his team of advisors. Before going for Chelsea, he looked at a number of other Premiership clubs. They were Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea. I can understand why he chose Chelsea for a host of reasons.
"Why not Manchester United? If you think of the sums of money involved, United are the most successful financially. They would have cost £650m to £700m to purchase. That's a huge chunk of change. He paid £60m for the shares outstanding at Chelsea in the market place, and buying the company meant assuming responsibility for the debts, and that was another £80m. So he got Chelsea for £140m. As for Manchester United, what can you do with them, how can you improve them? At Arsenal you can buy them but you would have to spend a lot to buy and build a stadium."
Harris, who considers that there are still takeover possibilities at Old Trafford, added: "Only time will tell on whether it was money well spent and if United was too expensive. But I have worked for some very wealthy people who I know do not spend their money to lose it. One suspects that this is seen as an investment."
Chelsea last night once again distanced themselves from speculation linking them with the England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. Their chief executive Trevor Birch said: "There is no truth in the rumour that we are trying to bring Sven-Goran Eriksson to Chelsea."
ABRAMOVICH'S SHOPPING SPREE
Sebastian Veron (right) £13.5m
Glen Johnson £6.5m
Thierry Henry Joint bid
Patrick Vieira £100m
Steven Gerrard £50m
Wayne Bridge £5m
Edgar Davids £10m
Christian Vieri £30m
Damien Duff £17m
Patrick Kluivert £1.5m
TOTAL £240.4mReuse content