Shaun Wright-Phillips finally agreed to join Chelsea yesterday after the Premiership champions settled on a £21m fee and Manchester City entered the transfer market immediately with the acquisition of the Fulham striker Andy Cole on a one-year deal.
While City are understood to be "delighted" with the size of the fee that their chief executive Alistair Mackintosh has secured from Chelsea there is still a lingering sadness at the manner of the 23-year-old's departure from Manchester. On Saturday morning, just hours before City's friendly with Macclesfield, the England international suddenly withdrew from the match with a stomach complaint.
Although Wright-Phillips had told his manager Stuart Pearce the previous day, when City had played a friendly against Tranmere Rovers, that he was not interested in a move to Stamford Bridge, his attitude had changed dramatically overnight, according to sources at the club. The winger was evasive about his real intentions and it was only on his journey home from Moss Rose that he was called by the chairman John Wardle, on holiday in France, and admitted that he wanted to leave.
As he was comfortably the most popular player among staff and officials at City, Wright-Phillips' actions have caused considerable disquiet at the club, who had done their best to convince him they would be investing in the team this summer. The player, who will join Chelsea's mid-ranking earners on around £35,000 a week, had been told by Pearce that Wardle would personally bankroll new signings this summer.
Pearce flew out to City's pre-season tournament in Thailand yesterday confident that he has up to £10m at his disposal and eager to sign a new striker. Cole, regarded as a replacement for Jon Macken, was due to join regardless of the Wright-Phillips deal. Now City want a top international forward to lead the line, with Frédéric Kanouté, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch all under consideration.
Cole could join up with the squad in Bangkok after completing a medical, the end of his contract at Fulham having been agreed by the west London club, and City could make a bid for Crouch this week. The striker has been highly recommended by the former Southampton manager Steve Wigley, who is now the reserve team coach at City and one of Pearce's main advisers.
Cole has agreed to take a big pay cut to join City, who do not pay wages of more than £25,000 a week to any player other than the striker Robbie Fowler. The former England international will miss the trip to Thailand with a back strain.
Fulham signed Niclas Jensen yesterday. The Denmark international left-back has agreed a two-year contract with the Cottagers, joining for an undisclosed fee from Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. Jensen, 31, played for Manchester City for two seasons in 2001-02.
The Wright-Phillips transfer takes Roman Abramovich's spending on players up to around £242m in little more than two years in charge at Chelsea and gives the club's manager Jose Mourinho an overwhelming selection of wingers. As well as his two first-choice wide players - Damien Duff and Arjen Robben - Mourinho also has two of England's brightest prospects in Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips, who both look set to start their World Cup season on the bench.
The rise to prominence of Wright-Phillips was confirmed by a spectacular goal against Ukraine on his England debut last August, but it was his versatility that helped City through last season. Equally comfortable in attack as he is on the right wing, he was also a serious target for Arsenal, whose vice-chairman David Dein assured City that they could not afford the player some months ago.
The winger's agent is the former Tottenham and Luton defender Mitchell Thomas, who is a friend of Wright-Phillips' stepfather, the former England international Ian Wright.
Sources at City have said that they feel unhappy at the manner in which Wright-Phillips, who still had three years left on his contract and had never shown any desire to leave, has suddenly been convinced of the merits of a move to the Premiership champions.
Wright-Phillips should complete his transfer in time to travel to America with Chelsea tomorrow.
Rich list: The Chelsea bench
Chelsea are likely to leave almost £60m of talent on the bench next season:
Wright-Phillips - £21m
Hernan Crespo - £16.8m
Joe Cole - £6.6m
Wayne Bridge - £7m
Tiago - £8m
TOTAL - £59.4m
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