Chelsea, who have themselves been in the dock to face allegations of "tapping up" transfer targets, last night accused Real Madrid of an illegal approach for Arjen Robben. The Premiership champions have asked Fifa to investigate.
Real's new president, Ramon Calderon, had made public his interest in the Dutch international winger, as well as in Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas and the Manchester United and Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, as part of his campaign for election to the highest office at the Bernabeu.
However, Calderon had no sooner delivered his first coup - Fabio Capello's return as coach from crisis-torn Juventus - than Chelsea announced they intended to complain to the game's world governing body about what they view as Real's illicit attempts to unsettle a player under contract at Stamford Bridge.
Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive, said: "We note that Mr Calderon confirms Real Madrid spoke to Arjen. The Robben situation could not be any clearer. There have been no meetings between the Real Madrid sporting director Predrag Mijatovic and any Chelsea officials, or anyone mandated to act on Chelsea's behalf or owner Roman Abramovich about Arjen's future."
Kenyon added tersely: "Any indication that a transfer is possible is completely untrue. We will not be entertaining any offers for Arjen. He is not for sale."
Calderon brazenly admitted underhand dealings when he discussed Robben and Fabregas with a television channel yesterday. Of the former PSV Eindhoven player, he claimed Mijatovic had spoken to Abramovich at the World Cup.
"Mijatovic was at a match with Abramovich and in theory Mijatovic told us that we can reach an agreement," Calderon said. "We have been in touch with the player, and it seems everything will be ok. The player wants to come here."
Boasting that he was "70 per cent sure" of capturing Fabregas, he said Mijatovic had also been in contact with the 19-year-old former Barcelona prodigy. "We have been talking to Fabregas and now we have to talk to Arsenal. They will have the last word.
"I know Mijatovic has been in touch with his representative and he says he is interested. I have not been in touch with David Dein [Arsenal's vice-chairman], a good friend. But we can reach agreement. It's something we can do."
As for Van Nistelrooy, whose future at Old Trafford is uncertain after he fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson late last season, Calderon conceded Real's new coach would actually have a say in the matter. "He's one of the options, but it depends on Capello. It is something we have to consider carefully."
Chelsea and Arsenal were on opposite sides in a high-profile "tapping" dispute which came to a head 13 months ago. After being found guilty of an illegal approach to Ashley Cole, Chelsea were fined £300,000 and their manager, Jose Mourinho, £200,000 for secretly meeting the under-contract Cole in a London restaurant. The player was fined £100,000.
On a less controversial note, Calderon gave assurances to David Beckham that he still has a future at Real under the new regime. "Beckham is very important for us in every sense," he said. "He is a brilliant player and the supporters are very much in favour of him. He's also important in the commercial area. I want to have him forever."
Meanwhile, Capello is back at the Bernabeu 10 years after his first stint with the nine-time European champions. The former Milan and Roma coach, 60, left Juventus on Tuesday as the Italian champions faced up to the possibility of relegation if their alleged place at the core of a match-fixing scandal is proved.
Capello led Real to the Spanish title in 1997 in his only full season there, but the club are without a trophy since 2003.Reuse content