Chelsea pay £7.8m for Gronkjaer

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The Independent Online

Colin Hutchinson, the Chelsea managing director, declared his confidence that the transfer system will be retained after the Blues spent £7.8 million on the Danish international Jesper Gronkjaer.

Colin Hutchinson, the Chelsea managing director, declared his confidence that the transfer system will be retained after the Blues spent £7.8 million on the Danish international Jesper Gronkjaer.

The European Union is set to decide by the end of the year what changes must be made to the current system, with some alteration inevitable because of laws on freedom of trade.

While the debate continues, many clubs have halted their transfer activity to await a decision which could drastically reduce the value of any purchases but Chelsea, like Middlesbrough with their recent signing of Ugo Ehiogu from Aston Villa for £8m, have continued spending.

Earlier this month Chelsea invested £1.7m in the Yugoslav international midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic on a two-year contract.

Gronkjaer, a 23-year-old left-sided midfielder, has agreed to join them from Ajax on a four-and-a-half-year contract but he will not arrive at Stamford Bridge until 1 January to give him time to recover from a slight thigh strain.

By that time the future of the transfer system is likely to be known and Hutchinson insists Chelsea have taken precautions with various undisclosed clauses - possibly including loyalty payments - in the midfielder's contract.

"Obviously there is a lot of politicking going on at the moment and it's always dangerous when politicians meddle in sport," he said.

"I believe there will be a compromise deal that transfers will be retained in some form, but we have pre-empted that by certain agreed clauses in his contract anyway. I don't see any need to elaborate on them, though. It's a private arrangement."

Hutchinson expressed his relief at having finally securing Gronkjaer after a "long saga" which had lasted almost a year, with two previous approaches having been turned down by Ajax.

"Jesper has played virtually continuously for 16 months because of Euro 2000, with only one week's holiday in the summer, and the minor strain needs some rest," Hutchinson said. "So it's probably a good time for him to take a break. He will arrive with us when the Dutch season shuts down and it will be completed by 1 January."

Gronkjaer, who has won 14 Danish caps and impressed for his country at Euro 2000, joined Ajax in July 1998 after three seasons at Aalborg and scored 15 goals from 70 appearances for the Dutch club.

Chelsea intend to use him on the left flank but manager Claudio Ranieri already has several left-sided players in the squad - including Graeme Le Saux, Celestine Babayaro and Jon Harley, who is on loan at Wimbledon.

Hutchinson, who has previously been linked with moves for a number of other overseas wingers, said: "Jesper was always top of our list for the wide-left position and we are delighted that at last we have got him."

The Danish international said: "I never had any doubts about joining Chelsea. They are a big club. The Premiership was always my first option. I could have gone to Italy or Spain but I always said if I left Ajax I wanted to play in England.

"This is a great move for me. I was very impressed when I visited Chelsea. I spoke with Claudio Ranieri for two hours and I really liked what he had told me."

Ranieri had initially declared his intention to install a British backbone to his Chelsea side and look to sign more English players but there has been little evidence of that so far.

Ranieri's more immediate sights are trained on tonight's Worthington Cup tie at Liverpool. Chelsea, who have in previous years fielded weakened sides in the competition, will again be without Mario Stanic and Jes Hogh through injury as well as Le Saux through suspension. Eidur Gudjohnsen, John Terry and Rati Aleksidze are added to the 16-man squad from Saturday's home win against Tottenham.

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