Nationality row clouds Chelsea's Kalou deal
Wednesday 31 May 2006
The transfer of Salomon Kalou to Chelsea, which was completed yesterday, looked to have concluded one of the modern game's more shameless morality tales, but there may be a further chapter. This could result in Kalou being loaned out rather than replacing, or partnering, his Ivory Coast compatriot Didier Drogba.
As an Ivorian, Kalou - who signed for an undisclosed fee, expected to be around £5m plus add-ons - needs a work permit to play in the Premiership. However, being uncapped he does not fulfil the criteria.
Chelsea refused to comment on the issue yesterday but unless he has another, familial qualification, it is expected they will apply for one on his behalf citing the striker's potential, and "mitigating circumstances".
If Kalou fails to get a permit he will have to be loaned to a club elsewhere in Europe, perhaps Belgium, which has more liberal nationality laws, until he qualifies.
The "mitigating circumstances" are unappealing. Kalou was born in the Ivory Coast, but joined Feyenoord at 15. His elder brother, Bonaventure Kalou, was already there. Bonaventure moved to Auxerre in 2003, and later to Paris-St Germain, but Salomon stayed in Rotterdam. In 2005 he won the Johan Cruyff award as the best young player in Dutch football.
Bonaventure, meanwhile, had become captain of the Ivory Coast's national team and was in the process of leading them to the World Cup finals.
Henri Michel, the coach, wanted to add the younger Kalou to the squad. But instead Salomon applied for Dutch citizenship, having been guaranteed a place in the Netherlands' World Cup squad by their coach, Marco van Basten. But when the finals draw pitted Ivory Coast against the Netherlands the ridiculous prospect loomed of brothers lining up against each other in Stuttgart on 16 June.
But for Rita Verdonk, this would have happened. The Dutch immigration minister, perhaps believing Kalou was motivated by economic self-interest (he is a much more valuable player as an EU citizen), refused to allow Kalou to be fast-tracked for a Dutch passport. She insisted he re-take, and pass, a language and culture test. Kalou fought a series of court cases but exhausted the appeals process this month.
Kalou's lawyer initially said he would persevere with his application, but the player then told a Dutch magazine he would declare himself for the Ivory Coast. With his move to England it would seem Verdonk's reservations about his commitment to the Netherlands have been confirmed.
* An FA disciplinary commission has fined Chelsea £10,000 for failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 1-0 defeat at Fulham on 19 March. Chelsea had four players cautioned and one, William Gallas, sent off.
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