Chelsea are ready to make a British-record £30m bid to take Steven Gerrard from Liverpool. Manchester United, on the other hand, have had two offers for Alan Smith turned down by Leeds United.
Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich has approved the biggest and most ambitious bid from the club since he took charge.
The club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, is free to use as much money as he needs to tempt Liverpool and their captain. Sources at Chelsea think there is a chance that Liverpool will accept and that the 23-year-old Gerrard may also be open to offers if the money is right for him. Talk of a contract worth more than £100,000 a week for Gerrard is being discussed at Chelsea.
Gerrard recently signed a new deal at Liverpool and was also made captain by Gérard Houllier, but the club's resolve to keep him will be tested as Chelsea again have a fortune to spend this summer as they embark on the second stage of their attempt to become one of world football's major powers.
Abramovich will open the bidding for Gerrard at around £30m. Liverpool will find such an offer hard to resist.
The Anfield club are short of funds to compete at the top level as has been proved by their talks with the Thais and local millionaire Steven Morgan. Selling Gerrard would be a blow, but they know that there will be offers for him soon because of his form this season.
Liverpool rebuffed Chelsea 12 months ago when Abramovich picked Gerrard out as an initial target. They were willing to pay around £20m then, but now he is worth more.
Abramovich's money does not always guarantee success in the transfer market Ronaldinho joined the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira in saying no to him. Gerrard could do the same, but Chelsea insiders believe they have a genuine chance and will shortly test the water with their bid.
Chelsea are working on four major signings this summer, and Gerrard may be flattered to be part of the club's ambitious plans, with other world-class players like Ronaldo, possibly David Beckham, Roma's Walter Samuel, Juventus' David Trezeguet and Marseille's Didier Drogba also on their shopping list.
Should Gerrard leave Anfield, Houllier may find consolation in signing Smith.
Leeds previously rejected two offers from Manchester United for the England international. United initially made a derisory bid of £3.5m for Smith, and after that was turned down, the Old Trafford board returned with an improved offer of £5.5m.
That has also been turned down as Leeds value the forward at closer to £10m, and it is understood Liverpool are preparing to step in.
A Leeds spokesman said: "The offers by Manchester United substantially undervalue Alan Smith's position as a top Premiership player. He is worth far more than what Manchester United are prepared to pay for him. Both offers were rejected immediately."
It is believed Smith and his representatives have held preliminary negotiations with Liverpool, who are in a good bargaining position after recently guaranteeing themselves Champions' League football for next season.
The move would see Smith link up with Harry Kewell, who left Elland Road last summer for £5m, although Leeds received only about half that figure as £2m went to his agent Bernie Mandic and the remaining £500,000 to the player's pension fund.
Smith's move to Liverpool would at least sit better with the Leeds fans than if he went to Manchester United. It remains to be seen if the latter come in with a second improved offer.
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