Chelsea pay high price to take Arnesen

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The Independent Football

As eleventh-hour agreements go it was pretty expensive, costing Chelsea possibly as much as £10 million, but at least by settling with Tottenham Hotspur over the alleged poaching of their sporting director, Frank Arnesen, the west London club avoided the possibility of another FA Premier League investigation into their transfer dealings.

Tottenham were apparently offered players - possibly Glen Johnson and Robert Huth - in compensation for the Dane. That may have appeared generous for a man who had two years to run on a £600,000-a-year contract at White Hart Lane. But given Arnesen's reputation and his significance in Tottenham's management structure, his loss was worth considerably more to the north London club, who need to find someone else to work with the coach, Martin Jol. Figures ranging from £3m to £10m for the settlement have been suggested, but the clubs have agreed that details will not be made public.

Reputation should have been an issue with Chelsea, too. They were fined £300,000 for "tapping up" Arsenal's England full-back Ashley Cole, and were put under threat of a three-point deduction in the Premiership should something similar occur again. Whether that penalty could have been imposed if their approach for Arnesen had been deemed improper is a moot point - it may apply only to dealings with players.

Tottenham complained as soon as they received a letter from Chelsea requesting permission to speak to Arnesen which was copied direct to the Dane. How, Spurs asked, could they have refused permission without Arnesen knowing of the approach? When they spoke to the Dane and he admitted that he was keen to go to Stamford Bridge, Spurs suspended him.

Offers backed by Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, are difficult to refuse. Abramovich took a close interest in the negotiations when Tottenham imposed a Friday deadline for an agreement after a newspaper published a picture of Arnesen relaxing with Abramovich on the Russian's yacht.

The ins and outs of the final agreement will remain a matter for conjecture as, for the moment, will the comings and goings of players at Stamford Bridge. Neither Cole nor Liverpool's England midfielder Steven Gerrard, who was linked with a move to Chelsea last season, now seem likely to pull on the Blue shirt, and strongest on the list of rumours now is Shaun Wright-Phillips, who is said to be set to join Chelsea in an £18m transfer.

The England wide player's club, Manchester City, said yesterday that they had yet to receive a bid from Chelsea. While City supporters might be unhappy at losing the dynamic, exciting 23-year-old, City would find it difficult to refuse a substantial fee as they want funds to rebuild their side.

Juan Sebastian Veron, who cost Chelsea £15m in 2003, looks set to stay at Internazionale for another two year, having joined the Milan club last season after one term at Stamford Bridge when Claudio Ranieri was manager.

Mateja Kezman could be heading for Atletico Madrid, according to the striker's agent. The 26-year-old, who joined Chelsea for £5m last summer, wants to leave because he has had few first-team opportunities. But that was because the Serb appeared to have left his scoring boots in Holland when he moved from PSV Eindhoven.

Rumoured as a replacement is England's Michael Owen, who has spent much of his short Real Madrid career to date on the bench. He has said that he is happy in Spain, but he may simply be hedging his bets. Neither the transfer fee nor his salary would, of course, present a stumbling block should life in west London appeal to him.