Chelsea lose Cech but may still get Modric
Successful management is about getting the big decisions right and Andre Villas-Boas is facing two critical ones this weekend. The easier may well be choosing which of his unheralded back-up goalkeepers will deputise for Petr Cech, who will be out for a month after sustaining medial ligament damage in training. The other judgement call is how strongly to push his boss, club owner Roman Abramovich, in the pursuit of Luka Modric.
Harry Redknapp's comment on Wednesday, that if he sold Modric and spent the proceeds on four players he would "in all honesty, have a better team", suggested another summer transfer saga is nearing conclusion. The question is at what price will Daniel Levy, Spurs' chairman, be prepared to reverse his no-sell stance. And will Abramovich be prepared to meet it?
"It's not my money," said Villas-Boas yesterday, "it doesn't depend on me. It depends on if the club are willing to go forward or not, up to which value."
Villas-Boas watched Manchester City's 4-0 defeat of Swansea on Monday in which in which the £38m signing Sergio Aguero scored twice and made another goal after coming on as a substitute. That, he agreed, "showed the impact of bringing in players of that quality". It was put to the Portuguese that, while he had signed some promising young players, including Belgian Romelu Lukaku, whose move from Anderlecht was completed yesterday, a superstar brings a different dynamic. He replied "hopefully", quickly adding, "I think the ones we have are superstars."
Chelsea do not, however, have a playmaker like Modric, whose passing could bring the best from Fernando Torres. And Villas-Boas clearly sees Torres as the future, having preferred him to Didier Drogba on opening day. Not that Drogba is history just yet. He would, said Villas-Boas, be signing a contract extension before the transfer window closed.
"We will reach an agreement," said Villas-Boas. "He is one of the most important players at the club and his willingness to continue [here] is 100 per cent."
Not great news for Lukaku who, said Villas-Boas, now "faces the biggest competition of his life with the forwards that we have – Fernando, Didier, Nico [Anelka], [Florent] Malouda, [Salomon] Kalou".
Chelsea are noticeably less well-endowed when it comes to goalkeepers. With new signing Thibault Courtois on loan to Atletico Madrid, Villas-Boas must choose between Ross Turnbull and Hilario for four Premier League matches beginning on Saturday at home to West Bromwich Albion.
Hilario, 35, was on the bench at Stoke last weekend but last played in the 2010 Community Shield, shipping three goals. Turnbull, 25, played two cup matches last season conceding four goals. "I am happy with the keepers I have," said the manager. "I have maximum trust in them. I don't think there has been too much negative analysis as to either."
It could be worse. Cech had been injured when he fell awkwardly in training on Wednesday after gathering a cross and a team-mate landed on him. "It looked pretty nasty," said Villas-Boas. "He got up for a cross and came to the ground on his right leg. He couldn't put his leg down properly."
Midfielder John Obi Mikel, whose father has been kidnapped in Nigeria, has made himself available to play.
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