'Tapping-up' row hits Chelsea over Neymar

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The Independent Football

Chelsea face being reported to Fifa by the Brazilian club Santos who accuse the Premier League champions of making an illegal approach for their 18-year-old striker Neymar.

The Santos president, Luiz Alvaro, called a press conference yesterday after it was claimed the teenager had agreed personal terms with Chelsea during a meeting in New York earlier this week before he scored on his Brazil debut in a friendly against the US in New Jersey. Unconfirmed reports said that the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, and the agent Pini Zahavi, who has a long history of brokering deals for Chelsea, met Neymar and his agent, Wagner Ribeiro, for dinner.

Alvaro said Santos had rejected a £20m bid from Chelsea and that the only way they could conclude a deal would be to pay the full £29m sum that would automatically trigger a release clause in the player's contract.

Alvaro said: "The club [Chelsea] had sent us a formal transfer proposal, which was rejected immediately, but the harassment continues. Considering the ethics which clubs are supposed to adhere to, this is completely intolerable, and Santos will go to defend its interests in Fifa.

"Yesterday [Wednesday] there was a telephone enquiry. They [Chelsea] got in contact with my secretary and asked for our fax number. This does not mean that they have opened negotiations. Santos are not interested in selling Neymar for any amount of money.

"The contract between player and club contains a clause, that is a compensation payment in the case that either party wants to break the agreement. If they meet the terms of that clause there is nothing we can do."

Chelsea last night distanced themselves from the story. A spokesman said: "We're aware of media reports, but we're not going to comment on reports of documents we haven't seen."

Even if the accusations from Santos prove to be little more than an aggressive form of negotiation, the row is a huge embarrassment for Chelsea.

Last season the Stamford Bridge club successfully overturned a transfer embargo imposed by Uefa following the transfer of young French midfielder Gaël Kakuta from Lens by appealing to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

Chelsea are understood to deny any suggestions of an illegal approach for Neymar, who has become the latest star to come from Brazil after scoring 32 goals in 33 games in the Sao Paolo championship this season.

His compatriot Ramires has already joined Chelsea in a £18.3m move from Benfica this summer, and yesterday the 23-year-old received his work permit despite failing to meet the Home Office requirements concerning international appearances. A Chelsea delegation containing assistant manager Ray Wilkins successfully argued that Ramires was a young player of exceptional talent.

The champions have also completed the signing of another teenage prodigy in the capture of 15-year-old midfielder Bertrand Traore of Burkina Faso. The boy had been affiliated to Auxerre in France and had also trained with Manchester United.

The former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho yesterday completed his £6.6m move to Real Madrid, where he will be reunited with his former manager Jose Mourinho.