Villas-Boas happy to risk Drogba exit


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The Independent Football

Chelsea may be trying to balance the books, again, but they are prepared to risk losing four leading players on free transfers next summer rather than sell them in January, Andre Villas-Boas indicated yesterday.

Chelsea's manager added he would be happy to continue playing the quartet as he was confident their emotional ties to the club meant their performance levels would not drop.

Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa are all out of contract at the end of the season, and all but Anelka, who will be 33 by then, have been offered new deals. Drogba and Kalou will, like Anelka, be free to talk to other clubs in January if they do not agree terms before then. Bosingwa cannot talk to other clubs until April because of an option on his contract. The four cost £64m and would be worth close to £30m even in January, but Villas-Boas said: "We won't need to sell them."

He added: "The most important thing is for the club to defend its interests. We know these players are of higher importance. That's why the offers are on the table – apart from with Anelka. We will try to get them to reach an agreement. We have plenty of time"

Villas-Boas said he would be happy to play them in the New Year regardless of whether they had signed or not. "Even if it reaches that situation, their personality, and the fact that they – Nico too – are emotionally tied to this club, means we can count on them while they are negotiating. Their loyalty to the club will never be in question. "

To lose all three forwards would be careless, but Anelka and Drogba are clearly on the downward slope of their careers while Kalou has rarely managed to hold down a regular place. Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku are developing fast and there is, of course, £50m Fernando Torres to be fitted in. Bosingwa has probably only been offered another year's extension so may seek a long-term deal elsewhere given he will be 30 next season. Drogba, who has scored nine goals in the last seven matches against Everton, will play against them today as Torres is suspended.

Everton hope to include Jack Rodwell after his red card against Liverpool on 1 October was rescinded, not that this was much consolation to manager David Moyes. Rodwell was dismissed by Martin Atkinson with the Merseyside derby goalless. Everton lost 2-0 and Moyes said: "It was a big derby game and we wanted to try to win it. The hardest thing is that every person I meet in the street comes up and says: 'It was the worst decision I've ever seen.' That doesn't make it any better because I can't do anything about winning the game."

Moyes noted with surprise that Atkinson is in charge of a Premier League match today (Stoke City v Fulham).

Uncertain Futures

Nicolas Anelka

Age 32, signed from Bolton for £15m in January 2008. No offer on table. May return to Paris SG. Value £7m

Jose Bosingwa

Age 29, signed from Porto for £16m in July 2008. Contract extension on offer. Linked to Juventus. Value £5m

Didier Drogba

Age 33, signed from Marseille for £24m in July 2004. Contract offered. Interest from Spurs. Value £8m

Salomon Kalou

Age 26, signed from Feyenoord for £9m in June 2006. Contract offered. Value £8m. Linked with Arsenal