Chelsea look to scupper City's £25m Tevez deal

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The Independent Online

Manchester City face a late bid from Chelsea for the services of Carlos Tevez, following Manchester United's decision yesterday to abandon attempts to persuade the Argentine to stay at Old Trafford.

United had imposed a deadline of midnight on Friday for Tevez to accept or reject an offer put to his representative, Kia Joorabchian, and after a telephone conversation with Joorabchian on Friday evening, chief executive David Gill took the decision that there was no prospect of the Argentinian staying and United – much to Tevez's surprise – announced that negotiations were over.

United's desperation to tie up the deal, which they had agreed to in principle a year ago but allowed to slip, was apparent in the revelation that Gill had offered Tevez and Joorabchian the £25m transfer plus a £110,000-a-week salary that would, in a five-year deal, put him alongside Rio Ferdinand among the club's highestpaid players.

That Tevez should have sacrificed all that shows he was unconvinced that he would be given a leading role at United next season – despite the impending departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

City are confident that Tevez will move across the city but Chelsea's failure to sign any of the high-profile strikers they have gone for – they were gazumped on Kaka, Valencia's David Villa seems destined to stay in Spain and the pursuit of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry is proving frustrating – means there is a feeling they will want to get a big signing under their belt.

Stamford Bridge balked at the £25m asking price, which City matched, but Tevez has always been considered a back-up should other prospective deals fall down. In the current inflated market, £25m looks like decent value for a proven Premier League goalscorer.

The failure of attempts to make a Tevez deal stick – despite two hours of cordial talks between Gill and Joorabchian at Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson's phone call to the Argentinian from his holiday base on the Côte d'Azur – leaves United with plenty of disposable income but a serious lack of a strike force.

The pursuit of Wigan's Antonio Valencia will begin in earnest and the prospect of a bid for Lyon's 23-year-old Karim Benzema seems more likely. Lyon's special adviser, Bernard Lacombe, said last night: "He is with us, but nobody knows what will happen. We didn't think Michael Essien would leave at the time but then Chelsea arrived with the cheque. If United, who as we know have plenty of cash available, said we want to buy Benzema, what can you do? Not much."

In their statement, United said: "The club agreed to pay the option price of £25.5m and offered Carlos a five-year contract which would have made him one of its highest-paid players. Disappointingly, his advisors informed the club that he does not wish to continue playing for United."

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