Chelsea are prepared to meet Liverpool's £50m valuation of Fernando Torres before the transfer window closes at 11pm tonight but the Premier League champions are hopeful they will not have to pay so much for the striker.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is personally overseeing the club's aggressive pursuit of Torres, whose official transfer request was rejected by Liverpool on Friday. The London team are so far understood to have made two bids, of £28m and £35m, for Torres (right), both of which were turned down by Liverpool who then issued a statement that the 26-year-old was "not for sale".
Since Friday, both clubs have been jockeying for position ahead of today's deadline. Chelsea have proposed including Daniel Sturridge in part-exchange, a move rejected by Liverpool, who would prefer to see Frenchman Nicolas Anelka move to Anfield.
Chelsea, in turn, have played down suggestions that Anelka, who spent part of the 2001-02 season on loan at Liverpool from Paris St-Germain and whose current contract runs out next summer, might be part of the deal. The Frenchman, who is 31, has made it a priority to play in the Champions this season while Suarez is ineligible having already represented Ajax in the tournament.
Chelsea, however, have taken encouragement from the signs emerging from Liverpool that they are prepared to negotiate the terms of Torres' departure; a markedly different position from having said that the striker is not for sale. Liverpool, however, are adamant that they do not want to sell. Their ideal scenario is for Torres to stay, rediscover his form at Anfield and develop a devastating new partnership with £23m signing Luis Suarez.
There is also a growing belief on Merseyside, however, that it might better to cash in on Torres now, rather than keep an unhappy player at the club. According to sources last night, Liverpool's American owner, John W Henry, has made contact with Aston Villa over a potential move for England winger Ashley Young, who would cost around £15m to £18m.
The Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, is keen to add spark to his midfield, and believes that by recruiting Young he would be able to use Joe Cole in a more central role. Liverpool are also hoping a deal for £8m can be completed for Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam.
Liverpool however are doggedly sticking to their valuation of £50m for Torres. That is the figure stated in a clause in Torres' contract, which allows him to leave for that sum this coming summer. Chelsea believe that Liverpool might well accept a lower figure if it comes to it, now that Torres has made it abundantly clear that he wants to leave Anfield.
Chelsea know that to land the Spaniard they will have to smash the current British transfer record, which stands at the £32.5m for Robinho paid by Manchester City to Real Madrid in August 2008.
The 26-year-old trained on his own yesterday at Liverpool's Melwood training ground after taking a two-day break in Spain, which had been agreed with the club long before he was at the centre of the current transfer wrangle.
Torres' decision to hand in a written transfer request on Friday surprised everyone at Liverpool. It was well known that he was unhappy with life under the club's former owners but the optimism following Henry's £300m purchase last autumn and the subsequent decision to bring in Dalglish in place of Roy Hodgson as manager was thought to have triggered a change of heart.
As soon as he agreed to take over at Liverpool, Dalglish made it a priority to tease out the best in Torres. That desire was behind the Scot's determination to bring Suarez from Ajax in the current transfer window. As a result, Dalglish is understood to be seriously annoyed by Torres' decision on Friday to try to push through a move to Chelsea, where he could see his wages rise from £110,000 to £170,000 per week.
Chelsea also still retain an interest in defender David Luiz of Benfica. They thought a deal for £25.5m had been done, until the Portuguese club suddenly broke off negotiations on Friday, demanding more money. However, indications from Portugal last night suggested Benfica are willing to talk again, and as the deal had been all but completed last week there is a chance it can be resurrected.
Chelsea had agreed personal terms with Luiz and had also secured a work permit for the Brazilian, who has only four caps for the national side.
Liverpool expect to announce that the deal to buy Suarez will be finalised today after all the paperwork concerning his £23m move could not be completed on Friday. The Uruguayan striker has passed a medical.
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