Striker Eto'o fits the bill for Mourinho

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The Independent Online

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o has emerged as Chelsea's No 1 transfer target this summer.

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o has emerged as Chelsea's No 1 transfer target this summer.

The powerful Cameroonian striker fits the criteria of the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho for his frontman and the Premiership champions are trying to put together a deal to prise him away from Spain. However, despite Chelsea's interest - and limitless resources - it seems highly unlikely that the 24-year-old will move to England right now.

He could have come last year when he was playing for Real Mallorca, on loan, and involved in a dispute with his then club Real Madrid, but Chelsea did not pursue their interest and bought Didier Drogba for £24m from Marseilles instead. Eto'o also rebuffed a Liverpool inquiry.

Chelsea would have to top that fee to sign Eto'o, the current African Footballer of the Year, who has scored 24 goals in La Liga this season as Barcelona won their first league title for six years.

It is understood that Chelsea are considering offering players plus cash but realise how important Eto'o has become to Barcelona. Hernan Crespo would be an obvious choice as a make-weight while William Gallas, who remains unsettled at Stamford Bridge, would be another possibility.

An added complication is the sour relations between the two clubs following their acrimonious Champions' League tie this season, in which Mourinho served a two-match touchline ban and Eto'o, in the return leg, claimed he was racially abused by a steward.

Chelsea's interest in signing the Brazilian Adriano from Internazionale has cooled as they believe he would represent too much of a risk having played in Europe for such a short period of time.

The "dream" choice of the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich remains Milan's Andrei Shevchenko, although both sides agree that it is a deal that will not take place, with the Ukrainian contracted until 2009 and happy in Italy.

Chelsea are still considering starting next season with Drogba as their main striker but they will have to bring in reinforcements with Mikael Forssell likely to leave and Mateja Kezman deemed surplus to requirements. It does not help the Serb's peace of mind that he has just been dropped by his country for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. He may move to Marseilles but wants to stay in England.

Porto's Benni McCarthy remains a possibility as a squad player and is available for £6m.

An intriguing battle has also emerged for Chelsea's goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. Despite being likely to remain at the club the 31-year-old is understood to have received offers from Arsenal, Manchester United and Roma. He is set to decide on his future this week but Chelsea have assured the Italian, who is contracted until 2008, that they do not want him to leave.

They are unlikely to want to sell Cudicini to another Premiership club and the player himself is thought to favour either of the Milan clubs or Juventus.

It is possible that Eto'ois encouraging Chelsea's interest in the hope of earning a more lucrative deal at Barcelona. In any event he is likely to be offered an improved contract, as is the former Chelsea target Ronaldinho, even though he has three years to run on his current deal.

It has also emerged that Chelsea are moving closer to making an offer for the Lyon midfielder Michael Essien. Manchester United and Real Madrid are also in the running for the 22-year-old Ghanaian.

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