Chelsea deny race for Adu is behind American link-up

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Chelsea announced a new partnership with the Los Angeles Galaxy yesterday that they hope will help to build a global brand to rival Manchester United and Real Madrid, but the club have denied that the move is a covert plot to sign the American teenage star Freddy Adu.

The 16-year-old Adu, regarded as the most sought-after young player in world football, plays for DC United in Washington ­ one of four football clubs, including the LA Galaxy, who are owned by the American company Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).

Chelsea's determination to beat all opposition, including United, to Adu's signature is no secret but they maintained that this latest partnership, announced by their chief executive, Peter Kenyon, in New York yesterday, is part of their strategy to become one of the world's biggest clubs.

AEG also owns the Chicago Fire and Houston 1836 ­ they are understood to be seeking to sell DC United ­ and now has an agreement that will result in Chelsea visiting America in pre-season every other year, starting in the summer of 2007. The American company owns the Millennium Dome and has also provided much of the finance behind David Beckham's academy for children that opened recently in north Greenwich.

As well as the marketing opportunities that the deal affords ­ Chelsea's new kit manufacturer Adidas also has a deal with AEG ­ the link with the LA Galaxy will give the Premiership champions a ready-made scouting network for talented young footballers all over America. Jose Mourinho will have first option to sign LA Galaxy players and will allow young Chelsea players out on loan to gain experience in Major League Soccer.

The clubs will exchange coaching and medical knowledge and Chelsea will also be involved in an American version of Football Icon, the Sky TV reality show which auditions thousands of young footballers before rewarding one with a professional contract at the club.

Kenyon described the union as a "unique, ground-breaking relationship" and Chelsea hope that it will give them the head start in signing young players that Arsenal, and to a lesser extent Manchester United, have enjoyed in Europe. However, Kenyon also said: "It will help Chelsea work towards its aim of becoming the most popular European club in the US, one of our key target markets."