Inter still chasing Lampard as Kaka waits in the wings

Brazilian may complete 'dream' move to Bridge if Mourinho captures Chelsea midfielder
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The Independent Football

Internazionale yesterday said they had not given up hope of signing Chelsea's midfielder Frank Lampard this summer.

The England international has been strongly linked with a move to the Nerazzurri, where he would be reunited with the former Chelsea manager Jose Mour-inho. Although Chelsea are reluc-tant to sell the 30-year-old, and Lampard is yet to decide where his future lies, Inter are happy to play a waiting game as he enters the final year of his contract.

"We will see how things evolve in the coming days," said Inter's chief executive, Ernesto Paolillo."But that is not to say that the negotiations are over. Anyway, we have made sure we have a competitive team even without Lampard." Inter are expected to seal the signing of the 23-year-old Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari today.

The Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said he expects Lampard to stay at the club for at least another year. Cech committed his future to the club after the arrival of the new manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, signing a new five-year deal earlier this month.

Cech is hopeful that Lampard might even sign a long-term deal, adding: "He has one year [left] on his contract [but] I hope they will find an agreement with the club and he will stay more than one year. He's really one of the key figures in our team over the last five years so it's always impor-tant to keep players like that, especially when he can [score] 20 goals a season from midfield."

After linking up with Chelsea for the first time since Scolari's appointment, midfielder Michael Ballack has hit back at Sir Alex Ferguson's comments which played down the Blues' title credentials. Ferguson tried to kick-start an early war of words with Scolari after suggesting Chelsea's ageing squad may not be as much of a threat to the champions this season. But with the 31-year-old Ballack falling under Ferguson's scope of criticism, the Germany captain pointed to the example set by the now-departed Claude Makelele last season.

"Our team can still improve," said Ballack. "If you are 30 or 31 you are not old. Last year Maka was 34 and played very well. I have nothing to prove, this type of thing happens over summer, people talking about each other."

Ballack also had his say on Lampard's transfer saga. "It would be fantastic if [he] could stay," said Ballack. "He is a big player and has done a lot for the club, but it is up to him. He knows we are all behind him."

Following the departure of Makelele to Paris Saint-Germain, Ballack said the summer signing of the Portugal internationalDeco adds a new dimension to the midfield. "We want to win a lot of trophies so we need a big squad. Deco is a fantastic player,he gives us more quality and that is what we need. You don't have to sign a lot of players, just quality. At the end of last season we were in good shape, if the season was two weeks longer maybe we could have won the League. Manchester United have had two fantastic seasons but this year [we] will aim to be first."

The Chelsea target Kaka is happy at Milan and in no hurry to leave, according to his agent, Gaetano Paolillo. The Brazilian is under contract at San Siro until 2013, and Paolillo said: "Kaka has always been happy at Milan and still is. He has a special feeling with the fans and his family is happy at Milan.

"Scolari has infinite affection for Kaka but regardless of this, for [Roman] Abramovich, Kaka is the dream that is missing, Kaka is in his dreams," he added. "It will depend on Milan. If [Milan owner Silvio] Berlusconi wants to keep him at Milan it will be difficult for Kaka to leave."

Real Madrid's manager, Bernd Schuster, has said that another of Scolari's targets, his fellow Brazilian Robinho, should stay at the Bernabeu. "I don't see Robinho out of this team because it doesn't make any sense," said Schuster. "He has to be with us. We all realised that he was one of the most important players in this squad and we need him for the next few years."

The Chelsea defender Jose Bosingwa is out for three weeks after tearing a thigh muscle. The 25-year-old, who joined Chelsea from Porto, managed 20 minutes against the Chinese side Guang-zhou Pharmaceutical before suffering the injury. He has been sent back to Chelsea's Cobham training ground for treatment.

Sunderland manager Roy Keane last night continued to strengthen his squad ahead of the new season by signing defender Pascal Chimbonda from Spurs. The 29-year-old full-back has agreed a three-year contract after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee.

Frenchman Chimbonda is the second Spurs player to move to Wearside following Teemu Tainio's switch four days ago and could be joined by a third – Steed malbranque. A fourth, however, will not be heading for the Stadium of Light after Portsmouth claimed victory in the race to sign Younes Kaboul.

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said he is ready to finalise a deal worth about £3m for the 22-year-old. He said: "Sunderland and Villa made fantastic offers but the lad wanted to come to Portsmouth."