Lyon stick to their guns over Tiago in Essien deal

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The Independent Football

Chelsea are refusing to meet the demands but reiterated yesterday, in conversations with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, their desire to sign the 22-year-old Ghanaian.

Chelsea have also denied reports that owner Roman Abramovich will meet Aulas today, with both men holidaying in the south of France, to thrash out a deal. They insist that chief executive Peter Kenyon will continue to handle negotiations.

Chelsea's top offer is £21m plus a further £2m if they win the Champions' League and they do not want Tiago - although expendable - to leave cheaply.

The Portuguese international cost £8m when he signed from Benfica last summer.

Kenyon is also determined to be seen to be able to land the deal without Abramovich's involvement, although a meeting with Aulas may be inevitable as the Frenchman appears to regard getting the Russian to the table as a victory in his negotiations.

Despite the protracted talks, it appears certain that Essien will still, eventually, join Chelsea before the transfer window closes on 31 August. If he does so, he will be paired with Frank Lampard in midfield and yesterday the England player spoke of how Chelsea have strengthened this summer and his desire "to fight on all fronts" ahead of next year's World Cup.

"We've lost two or three players but have added real quality, so another year down the line, another bit more experience for all of us and two or three more quality players," Lampard summised. "That's only going to make us stronger."

He said that he expected this year's Premiership to be closer as "other teams maybe didn't play as well as they would have liked to stay with us".

Unsurprisingly, Lampard named Arsenal - who Chelsea beat in Sunday's Community Shield - and Manchester United as his club's likeliest challengers. "They are the ones who have dominated for the last 10 years," Lampard said.

The 27-year-old insisted there would be no chance of "over-confidence" at Chelsea, despite winning the League by 12 points.

"I don't think the manager would allow that," Lampard said. "It's just a case of keeping our confidence.

"The aim of everyone who plays in any competition is to try and win it. If you don't do that then you have no chance."

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