Chelsea line up Napoli's Cavani to be new Drogba

Exclusive: Villas-Boas monitors Uruguayan closely as club prepare to offer £35m in summer

Napoli's prolific Uruguay international striker Edinson Cavani has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Didier Drogba at Chelsea next summer as the club's manager, Andre Villas-Boas, draws up plans to continue his radical overhaul of his squad.

The Portuguese has dispatched Chelsea's newly appointed European scout, Mick Doherty, to monitor the 24-year-old striker on a number of occasions this season and is believed to consider Cavani an ideal candidate to succeed the Ivorian if, as expected, he leaves the club at the end of this season.

Chelsea would have contemplated offers for the 33-year-old, suspended for this lunchtime's crucial Premier League derby with Arsenal, both last summer and the previous year had any suitable bids arrived. With the player's contract due to expire at the end of this campaign, they are not thought to be prepared to offer him anything more than a single season's extension.

Villas-Boas is keen to reduce drastically the age of his squad, a task started last summer with the arrivals of Juan Mata, Thibault Courtois and Oriol Romeu. Cavani, nine years Drogba's junior, would fit that pattern.

The Uruguayan – a native of Salto, the same border town which produced Luis Suarez – also offers the flexibility Villas-Boas demands from his forwards, prospering both as a focal point for Napoli and while playing wide for his national team.

Both positions have reaped rewards: 26 goals last season, his first at San Paolo, made Cavani the most prolific striker in Napoli's history, while Uruguay claimed a World Cup semi-final berth last year and last summer produced a shock victory in the Copa America.

Napoli successfully resisted the overtures of Manchester City for their most valuable asset last summer, with the club's extrovert president, Aurelio de Laurentiis, expressing his determination to allow coach Walter Mazzarri the strongest possible side for the team's first-ever assault on the Champions League.

Though Cavani has continued his impressive vein of form this season – scoring against City at the Etihad Stadium last month before producing a stunning hat-trick to blow Milan away in Naples – and Napoli have started the Serie A campaign sufficiently well to be considered potential title challengers, the club would be vulnerable to a substantial bid this summer if the city's first Scudetto since 1990 proves elusive.

De Laurentiis is desperate to build a squad of sufficient strength to make Napoli regular Champions League candidates and sources close to the Italian side have admitted that a bid of around £35m would be too good to turn down. Chelsea could expect City to rival their interest.

Rather more pressing for Villas-Boas, ahead of the visit of Arsène Wenger's team, is the fate of John Terry, accused of using a racial slur towards QPR's Anton Ferdinand last Sunday, but he is a man the Portuguese insists the entire country should take great pride in.

"I think he is a good role model," said Villas-Boas, who earlier this week described Terry as a fine "representative" of the nation. "He is England captain. He is the captain of your team, your country. You should be proud. I am proud of [Cristiano] Ronaldo. He is the captain of my team, Portugal. He takes us to a higher level."

The Chelsea manager – who has written to the Football Association to explain his comments about referee Chris Foy after that game – removed Terry, the subject of his own FA investigation, from his squad for the Carling Cup victory at Everton but insisted that it was a precaution to protect his captain from suspension, rather than a reflection of his state of mind.

"I see no reason why he is not in the right frame of mind to play [against Arsenal]," Villas-Boas said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before