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Premier League

Chelsea sign £7.8m Gronkjaer

Chelsea have signed Danish international Jesper Gronkjaer for £7.8m.

Chelsea have signed Danish international Jesper Gronkjaer for £7.8m.

It takes the Premiership club's spending in less than a month to £9.5m, having also splashed out on Yugoslav international midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic on a two-year contract from Deportivo La Coruna.

Gronkjaer, a 23-year-old left-sided midfielder, has join them from Ajax on a four-and-a-half-year contract.

He is not expected to play until January 1 to give him time to recover from a slight thigh strain.

Chelsea managing director Colin Hutchinson expressed his relief at having finally gained Gronkjaer's signature after a "long saga" which had lasted almost a year, with two previous approaches having been turned down.

He added: "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.

"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 January 1."

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

Chelsea intend to use him on the left flank, where they have been short of attacking width especially because of the failure of Gabriele Ambrosetti to make his mark in English football.

However, coach 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.

Given that he has so far been playing a wing-back system, it remains to be seen how Gronkjaer will fit in and whether any of that trio will be sold in an attempt to balance the books.

Hutchinson, who has previously been linked with moves for a number of other overseas wingers, insisted: "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 declared: "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 liked what he had told me.

"I am looking forward to working with him and playing with some of Europe's top players."

Ranieri had initially declared his intention to instal a British backbone to his Chelsea side and look to sign more English players. But, especially with his two overseas signings, there has been little evidence of that so far.

The Chelsea coach's sights are, however, more immediately trained on tomorrow night's Worthington Cup tie at Liverpool.

The Blues, 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 their 16-man squad from last weekend's home win against Tottenham, which was their third consecutive success at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues know they must start to win away if they are to make real progress this season, though, with their only victories away from Stamford Bridge since a Premiership success at Leeds in April having come at Wembley.

Goalkeeper Ed de Goey warned: "We need to play every game with confidence. If you're playing away or at home then it doesn't make any difference to me. That has to be the same for everyone."