Anelka will go as Chelsea target Napoli ace


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The Independent Football

Nicolas Anelka has been told by Andre Villas-Boas that he is free to leave Stamford Bridge in January, as the Chelsea manager intends to recruit a striker as part of an accelerated revamp of his ageing squad. The 34-year-old Portuguese, under pressure following a run of three defeats in four games, hopes to make at least three signings in the winter transfer window to ensure his team qualify for next season's Champions League.

The France striker, who had hoped to finish his career at the club where he feels he has produced his best football, will be allowed to go to make way for at least one more forward. Anelka is thought to be downbeat at being told Villas-Boas will not stand in his way if a suitable offer arrives, with sources close to the 32-year-old adamant Chelsea remain "in his heart".

A number of clubs have expressed an interest in Anelka – who has not even travelled to Germany as part of the Chelsea squad – but reports in France that he has agreed a €10.6m (£9m) per year salary with the Chinese side Shanghai Shensua are believed to be premature. Anelka, who is out of contract this summer, has not yet discounted the possibility of moving to the Far East, but he has also received approaches from clubs in the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Russia.

Chelsea are determined to reduce the average age of their squad in order to allow Villas-Boas to implement his favoured high-intensity pressing game, and Anelka's replacement is likely to have to fit that criterion. The Independent revealed last month that Chelsea have dispatched European scout Mick Doherty to watch the Napoli striker Edinson Cavani several times this season, but the Italian side would be determined not to sell the Uruguayan before the summer at the very earliest.

Villas-Boas is also expected to return to his former club Porto in a bid to persuade the Portuguese champions to sell the Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira. Though ostensibly a left-back, the 26-year-old is capable of playing in a more advanced role; that, in turn, would allow Juan Mata to be deployed more centrally.

Porto, off the pace both at home and in Europe this season, are now prepared to countenance Pereira's departure, and could perhaps halve their £20m summer valuation come January.

Villas-Boas had wanted to recruit a domestic centre-back during the summer, and may reignite the interest shown then in Gary Cahill and Everton's Jack Rodwell. With his contract running out, the Bolton man's asking price could be as low as £7m, while Villas-Boas sees Rodwell as capable of deputising for both Luiz and John Obi Mikel, as a defensive midfield shield.