Chelsea refuse to give up on Torres despite injury

Chelsea are determined to continue their pursuit of Fernando Torres despite the serious thigh injury the Liverpool striker picked up during Sunday's World Cup final.

The Double winners are understood to have started talks with Liverpool over a potential £35m transfer before Torres collapsed in pain late on during Spain's 1-0 victory over the Netherlands.

Tests yesterday confirmed that Torres has ruptured a muscle in his left thigh, which could rule him out until the start of the new Premier League season. A statement on the Spanish Football Federation's website confirmed the 26-year-old underwent a magnetic resonance scan at a clinic in Madrid where doctors diagnosed "a Grade 1 muscle fibre rupture in the left thigh".

Torres pulled up in pain shortly after he came on as a substitute during Sunday's final and was carried off the pitch on a stretcher, although he appeared to move freely when he joined team-mates in celebration moments later.

The latest injury came after a disappointing personal World Cup for Torres in which he never looked fully fit. The former Atletico Madrid striker also missed the end of Liverpool's season with injuries to his right knee.

Chelsea, however, have not been deterred by Torres' latest injury and sources say they are confident they can strike a deal with Liverpool once he returns from holiday.

The Liverpool manager, Roy Hodgson, is keen to retain his star striker, and spoke yesterday of his delight in seeing Torres drape a Liverpool scarf around his shoulders as he celebrated on Sunday.

Hodgson said: "I think it's safe to say the pictures of Fernando in the dressing room with the World Cup certainly went down well with our fans, but the club can be proud of all the players who went away to the World Cup."

Chelsea have already signed Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool this summer and the Israeli is set to make his first appearance for his new club in a friendly against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The game could also see the return of Michael Essien, who has not played for the club since December. Essien, 27, suffered a thigh injury last year, and then picked up a knee injury while training with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations in January. He suffered a complication following surgery and his recovery was delayed so much that he was forced to miss the World Cup in South Africa.

However, he has spent the summer training at Chelsea's training headquarters in Cobham, Surrey, and is due to return to the side, along with the Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel. The Chelsea assistant manager, Ray Wilkins, said it was vital to get players such as Essien and Mikel fit for the opening games of the Premier League season.

Wilkins said: "John Obi is slightly in advance of Michael but they're working very well. They have been working double sessions for the last week and we will get them really firing before the season starts.

"The players we have got here now [training at Cobham], we have to get them into the right fitness condition so that they are prepared to play because we might not be able to use the guys coming back from the World Cup for the first couple of games."

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