Chelsea's spending spree will continue in summer
Club plans to invest heavily in leading youngsters before Uefa rules come in
Chelsea's lavish spending will continue into the summer, with owner Roman Abramovich keen to attract the cream of Europe's top young players to Stamford Bridge before Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules kick in.
The Independent understands Abramovich's decision to authorise the club's dramatic £75m capture of Fernando Torres and David Luiz on the final day of the January transfer window signifies a marked change in the club's transfer policy of recent years. With Monday's extravagance, Abramovich spent more in one day than he had done in the previous three years with Chelsea, after finally being convinced of the need to inject fresh blood into the Premier League champions' ageing squad.
The indications are that the policy of rejuvenating the playing pool is to be carried on at the end of the season, and with that in mind Chelsea are continuing to monitor several players as potential new signings.
Chelsea's extensive list of possible targets include Dutch right-back Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax, young Belgian internationals Eden Hazard from Lille and Romelu Lukaku of Anderlecht, Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik of Napoli and French winger Dimitri Payet of St Etienne.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has earmarked a new right-back as a priority, and the club are highly likely to bid for Van der Wiel, who celebrates his 23rd birthday today. Van der Wiel has been at Ajax since he was eight years old, has 20 caps for the Netherlands and impressed during last summer's World Cup in South Africa. He almost joined Bayern Munich for £14m last year, and would cost closer to £20m this time around.
Before the signings of Luiz and Torres, Chelsea's sporting director, Frank Arnesen, admitted: "Gregory is on our No 1 list but not currently at the top. If we're serious, nothing will happen until the summer." Chelsea are also keeping a very close eye on the development of 17-year-old Lukaku, who many see as the ideal long-term replacement for Didier Drogba. He is already a full Belgian international, and Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck claimed yesterday that he rebuffed Chelsea's approaches during the recent window for Lukaku, putting a price tag of £25.5m on him.
Van Holsbeeck said: "Chelsea wanted to buy this winter. We said no. He is not ready, and we still keep one to two seasons. His price? €30m [£25.5m]." Udinese's Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez is another player that Chelsea have made enquiries about and will consider bidding for in the summer.
The recruitment drive will lead to more senior players on high wages leaving the club in the summer, following last year's clear-out in which five first-team regulars departed. This year's exodus is likely to include experienced internationals such as Jose Bosingwa, Paulo Ferreira and Yuri Zhirkov. Other younger players such as Jeffrey Bruma and Gaël Kakuta, who has been loaned to neighbours Fulham, could also be sold if the price is right. Young Italian striker Fabio Borini is almost certain to move on, with Parma his most likely destination.
John Terry, the Chelsea captain, said yesterday the club's £75m spending heralds a return to the time when Abramovich was happy to spend big sums. Terry said: "To sign Torres and Luiz is a huge statement for the club. It has let everyone know we're in the market again, we're buying and competing with Manchester City, who have been spending an awful lot.
"Everyone has been going on about the ageing players and we have just brought in two very young players who are hopefully going to be around the club for a long time. No one is getting too carried away but everyone is upbeat. It sets a massive tone. From a club point of view, reading things like the Bolton quotes that they didn't fear Chelsea no more. We say, 'Don't fear us at your peril'. Everyone is fighting for places with some big games coming up. For myself, for the other defenders and the strikers it is very good competition and that's very important at a big club. It gives the manager great options and very difficult ones at that."
Torres, 26, is to make his Chelsea debut against former club Liverpool on Sunday. Terry has been part of the defence that Torres has scored seven goals against in eight games for Liverpool, and is happy the roles have now been reversed.
Terry said: "We have had some great battles. He is one of the strongest out there. His pace is frightening, his heading is unbelievable for his height and his finishing is top drawer, as we have seen against us a few times. I'm just delighted because there were rumours that a few other clubs had been chasing him."
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger anticipates Chelsea will again spend heavily in the summer. He said: "He [Abramovich] has decided to put big money in again, and that tells you that certainly in the summer more will come. He is back to full investment."
All change at Stamford Bridge: Players who could be coming and going this summer
Gregory van der Wiel, 23, Ajax
Ajax's right-back could be the next big departure, following Luis Suarez to Liverpool, but Chelsea will face competition from Barcelona.
Romelu Lukaku, 17, Anderlecht
One of the hottest prospects in the game, he topped the Belgian scoring charts last season. A lifelong Chelsea fan whose idol is Didier Drogba.
Alexis Sanchez, 22, Udinese
Udinese are ready to sell the Chilean winger – who is often compared with Cristiano Ronaldo – in the summer, but only for £25m or more.
Jose Bosingwa, 28
Bayern Munich have admired Chelsea's injury-prone right-back for years. Joined for £16.3m in 2008. Has one year left on his contract.
Paulo Ferreira, 31
Another right-back, who joined for £13.2m in 2004. Has two years left on his current deal. A return to a Portuguese club may be his favoured option.
Yuri Zhirkov, 27
The Russian has failed to live up to his billing following his £18m transfer from CSKA Moscow in July 2008. Zenit St Petersburg enquired last summer. Contract until 2013.
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