Chelsea enter talks to sign 'new Ronaldinho'

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The Independent Football

Chelsea yesterday met the agent of the teenage Brazilian striker Lulinha to discuss his £8m move to the Premier League club.

The agent, Wagner Ribeiro, flew to London to hold talks with Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's chief scout and head of youth development, who has been pushing for a deal to be completed as quickly as possible to sign the 17-year-old. Lulinha, who plays as an attacking midfielder or a "second" striker, has been told he can leave his club, Corinthians, if the asking price is met.

Chelsea sent scouts to watch him play against Flamengo last Wednesday, as revealed by The Independent, and, again, in the 2-2 draw with Atletico Paranaense last weekend.

After that game Lulinha was also quoted in the Brazilian press as saying he is "happy that Chelsea are interested in me. It's motivating," while Andres Sanchez, the Corinthians president, confirmed that Chelsea have registered their interest.

Corinthians have seized on that interest and are hoping that other leading European clubs will now bid for Lulinha, who has been saddled with the label of being the "new Ronaldinho". However, Chelsea are the clear favourites, with Arnesen, having lost out to Milan for another rising Brazilian star, Alexandre Pato, last summer, hoping to wrap up negotiations in time for the January transfer window.

Ribeiro, whose clients include Robinho, is acutely aware of Chelsea's enthusiasm and has combined a trip to hold talks with other European clubs with a visit to Stamford Bridge yesterday. He has also been in Spain to meet Real Madrid.

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