Chelsea may be in Thailand but their eyes remain firmly on the transfer market, and they appear ready to deliver a third and final bid for Luka Modric this week after Tottenham began to show signs of relenting in their attempts to keep the unsettled midfielder.
The Blues have been encouraged by Harry Redknapp's comments before the weekend, when the Spurs manager admitted for the first time that the club might be forced to sell the Croatian international. Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, had insisted Modric was not for sale at any price and turned down offers of £22 million and £27m from Chelsea.
Spurs stayed firm even when the 25-year-old handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move. However, Redknapp appeared to signal a change of stance when he said the situation was a "difficult one for Luka and a difficult one for Spurs". He stressed he wanted to keep Modric but "it wasn't his decision at the end of the day" so "we'll have to wait and see".
Redknapp said he felt Modric was worth an "awful" lot more than £35m – but that has been interpreted as merely a figure to start with by Chelsea, although they are believed to be reluctant to go any higher.
One piece of business they have completed is the signing of Oriol Romeu from Barcelona, a deal that is likely to dampen the club's desire to take Scott Parker back to Stamford Bridge. Unlike the new manager Andre Villas-Boas's other signing, the goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who will be loaned out to AtleticoMadrid, Romeu will be part of Chelsea's first-team squad.
Since Romeu played in roughly the same position for Barcelona B as Parker did for West Ham, the pressure to bring in last season's Footballer of the Year as a short-term replacement for the injured Michael Essien has decreased. West Ham are said to want a £4m loan fee for their captain, although Parker is thought to want a permanent transfer to the club where he failed to settle in his one season under Jose Mourinho.
Villas-Boas said central midfield was "a sector where Chelsea are struggling with numbers, and not only after Michael's injury,and we wanted to bring in players in those positions". He added: "Romeu wants to prove himself as a player. Barce-lona B had a magnificent season in the Spanish Second Division, finishing third. Oriol went through an injury but came back to play for the first team and he is oneof the most promisingplayers in the No 6 position, as we like to call it."
Villas-Boas is already showing signs of fixing his gaze on Manchester United, yesterday claiming there was no significant gap between his squad in Thailand and Ferguson's, who are ploughing through a coast-to-coast tour of America.
"You have to recall that Chelsea went to United in May with a great chance to shorten a distance that, in the end, became nine points. It was down to one game and, in one game, everything can happen," he said.
"It went United's way and could have gone Chelsea's way. You also have to recall that, during that last part of the season, Chelsea came back with an extremely good recovery in terms of shortening that points distance, with a possibility to close the gap on Manchester United.
"The distance opened up again in the last three games. But this club had an opportunity. It shows how competitive we can be. Clubs have to spend what they have to spend. United have seen some players choose to end their career, and they've reinforced those sectors. We will decide what sectors we need to reinforce later."
Since his arrival from Porto, Villas-Boas has been insistent big transfers would have to wait until he has assessed his squad. Rushing into the market carried too many risks. You could say the same about waiting until August. Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea are being bedded in now. Mourinho's Chelsea were adept at making racing starts to their seasons, turning the Premier League from a marathon to a long-distance sprint. That is more difficult when you are still fine-tuning your team.
"You have to remember that in January we put a lot of money in," said Villas-Boas, though it is questions about Fernando Torres that have caused him most irritation. Roman Abramovich did release almost £80m to secure David Luiz and Torres; it was not enough to save Carlo Ancelotti's regime but it may have limited his successor's room for manoeuvre.
Friendly fire: How British clubs fared across the world
Cologne 1 Arsenal 2
Gervinho wasted no time in endearing himself to Arsenal fans, who look like having to find some new heroes to dote on after the summer transfer window closes. Cesc Fabregas looks set to head to Barcelona after all and Samir Nasri, who came on for the second half in Germany, could yet be off to Manchester City. But the Ivory Coast striker looks to have every chance of being the focus of attention after he scored twice in the first 15 minutes yesterday. He converted passes from Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott for his goals, but a collision with the Cologne goalkeeper, Michael Rensing, led to him going off after 29 minutes. Cologne got back in the game through Carl Jenkinson's own-goal.
Orlando Pirates 0 Tottenham 3
"Mixed" would be the best word to describe Tottenham's final tour match in South Africa. They won with a mix-and-match line-up and Orlando missed a slew of decent chances, including a penalty. Rafael van der Vaart scored twice – from a first-half free-kick and then a surging run after the interval – and Jermain Defoe added the third at the end from a cross by Gareth Bale, like him a substitute, to secure a flattering scoreline for a side again led by the unsettled midfielder Luka Modric. Spurs again started with South African Bongani Khumalo at centre-back and welcomed back Steven Pienaar from injury in his native land.
Hull City 3 Liverpool 0
The idea of pre-season friendlies is to get players fit for the big kick-off and to that end Kenny Dalglish might consider his Liverpool side's outing at the KC Stadium a success. He blooded newcomers and gave 22 players an outing and with the side being anything but settled for the 90 minutes victory was perhaps unlikely. Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Alexander Doni all made their first appearances in a Liverpool shirt but it was more of a day to remember for Hull. Robert Brady, once a youth player at Manchester United, had goalkeeper Doni picking the ball out of his net after 20 minutes. Robert Koren cracked in Hull's second and after a reshaped Liverpool had wasted some good chances, Jay Simpson wrapped up the scoring from Kevin Kilbane's pass.
B Mönchengbch 0 Sunderland 0
Sunderland signed off their nine-day training stint in Germany with a draw that was more creditable because they played the last 20 minutes with only 10 men after Titus Bramble's controversial dismissal. Bramble had already been booked when he fouled the Borussia Mönchengladbach substitute Mathew Leckie and was surprisingly sent off. Being short-handed hardly helped Sunderland's cause as they had already struggled to make clear-cut chances. Connor Wickham, their signing from Ipswich, put a shot just wide after being set up by Ji Dong-won, and late on Stéphane Sessegnon had a shot saved after good work by Kieran Richardson.
Notts Co 1 Wolverhampton W 1
Wolves used 17 players but were thwarted in the last minute by Notts County's captain Neal Bishop. It had all looked promising for Mick McCarthy's men when they started like a house on fire, with Adam Hammill, Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle all having chances in the early stages. They took the lead just short of the half-hour. Jamie O'Hara set up Matt Jarvis with a short pass and he made space to fire in a shot that Stuart Nelson could not keep out. Kevin Doyle hit the post and then Steven Fletcher saw Nelson save his powerful header. It seemed only a matter of time before Wolves extended their lead, but a few substitutions at half-time and then the replacement of the rest of the team at the midway point of the second half did nothing to aid continuity. Even so Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was denied by a remarkable Nelson save before Bishop nipped in to equalise from Curtis Thompson's cross.