Chelsea are closing in on a deal this month for Nicolas Anelka, but the other surprise name on Avram Grant's long-term wanted list is the Reading striker Kevin Doyle. The Irishman has been watched by Chelsea since Grant took over and is considered a bright enough prospect to be worth investing in over the next year.
Grant has been told that a deal for Anelka is close and that the club will not impose a transfer fee limit upon themselves that could scupper the transfer. After refusing to sanction a single new signing last summer, Roman Abramovich will back his new manager to the hilt and Doyle is high on the list.
The 24-year-old fits the template for players that Grant wants. Doyle is relatively young but proven in the Premier League. The club are also keen to bring in British and Irish players in the long term. Doyle signed a new deal this time last year that will keep him at Reading until 2010; as ever, Chelsea would be confident of meeting a transfer fee of around 8m.
In the next month, however, it will be the Bolton striker Anelka who is Chelsea's priority with Didier Drogba eligible to leave on African Nations duty as early as Friday. The Bolton manager, Gary Megson, said yesterday that he hoped that Anelka would stay, but there are few at the club who can see the point of turning down a 10m offer when it comes.
Should Bolton choose to hold out over Anelka, Doyle is regarded as a viable alternative who would be useful in the long term too. Chelsea, who face Fulham today, hope to complete the Anelka transfer as early as possible with potentially eight games this month and a further two, including Liverpool at home in the Premier League, before the end of the African Cup of Nations tournament. Anelka's anxieties about joining Chelsea had centred upon whether he would be discarded once Drogba returned, but that appears to have been resolved and Chelsea are confident of doing the deal.
The Chelsea captain, John Terry, has not been able to start any rehabilitation work in the gym because he is still unable to put weight on his right foot. Terry broke three bones in the foot when he was tackled by Emmanuel Ebou on 16 December and it is still too painful for him to run at any pace. The club estimated that it would take him six weeks to come back when he first sustained the injury and are now all but certain that he will miss Fabio Capello's first England game against Switzerland on 6 February.
Yesterday, Grant maintained that the majority of Chelsea's supporters were happy with his progress since taking over the club in September, even though they twice chanted at him "You don't know what you're doing" on Saturday. The Chelsea manager came in for flak when he substituted midfielders Joe Cole and Michael Ballack in the 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
"I think most of the fans are more than happy at what has happened since I took over the team," Grant said. "They know the problems with the team and we have taken points. I don't want something that happened for five minutes to be focused on. I prefer to look at most of the supporters who I feel are with me. Nothing in football can surprise me. I look at the majority of supporters. Sometimes you know they [the players] are nervous. They want to win the game but they [the fans] appreciate what they are doing."
As Chelsea gear up for their biggest spending spree since the summer of 2006, the club's hierarchy has stepped up the work on either developing the Stamford Bridge stadium or finding an alternative site.
Ideally, Chelsea would like a capacity of around 55,000, with all the corporate and merchandising advantages that combine to earn Arsenal 3m a match since their move to the Emirates Stadium. An announcement is expected soon.Reuse content