Chelsea last night denied having made any formal bid for Milan's dazzling Brazilian midfielder Kaka as the player's representatives talked up the possibility of a move to London. His adviser Diogo Kotscho – not an official Fifa agent – had set the hares running by suggesting: "This is the first time we feel a deal will definitely happen. Because of the situation Milan are in at the moment, the deal is good for all parties involved."
Kotscho's meaning was that Milan, having failed to qualify for the Champions' League, then splashing out £18 million on Ronaldinho, are now £35m in debt. They could recoup twice that sum by selling Kaka, the world player of the year, for a world-record fee but club vice-president, Adriano Galliano, has always insisted of Kaka and fellow midfielder Andrea Pirlo: "They won't move." A club statement yesterday reiterated: "Kaka is absolutely not for sale."
Chelsea will continue to monitor the situation, especially if Frank Lampard's proposed move to rejoin Jose Mourinho at the other Milan club, Internazionale, comes closer to fruition. Their new manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, could hardly be a greater admirer of his compatriot Kaka, though after signing Deco from Barcelona he is risking overload in the midfield department.
Of Deco's talent as a thoroughly modern midfielder there can now be no doubt, but it was questioned in the past, notleast by Graeme Souness, who rejected him at Benfica. Mourinho had more faith and made him an essential component of the Porto side who became European champions in 2004.
Tipped to join his master at Stamford Bridge, Deco chose Barcelona instead and came up against Chelsea for three seasons running in epic Champions' League ties. Two years ago he opened the scoring against them with an outstanding individual goal at the Nou Camp.
His stated ambition is to win the Champions' League with a third different club, and he knows the one he has joined were close to doing so in May. "I saw the final and Chelsea were much better in the second half, but that is the way the Champions' League is, you need luck," he said. "I hope that not only do I bring luck but we have the luck that was missing last time round."
Arsenal (in another Champions' League final), Liverpool and Manchester United have come up against him too – he was belatedly unleashed towards the end of last season to give an excellent performance in the unlucky defeat at Old Trafford. By that time his popularity with supporters was no longer replicated by the coach, Frank Rikjaard, or the Barcelona president, Joan Laporta. Deco had, rightly or wrongly, been lumped in with his great friend Ronaldinho as a party animal less disciplined off the field than on it.
Scolari, who had to allow his midfielder time off from Euro 2008 at one point last month to attend to matters connected with his second divorce, may be given pause for thought about the distractions available in London, where Deco has previously been in trouble for unsavoury antics at a nightclub after Portugal played Brazil at the Emirates.
His tongue may just have been adjacent to his cheek when the subject of socialising was raised. "I have my own way of dealing with my life. When you are training really hard you cannot go out and drink a lot because you are tired. I follow a routine and am lucky that I don't have a problem with putting on weight."
With a 31st birthday due before the new season is a month old, he may reasonably be assumed to be past his peak. But he insists he has not come for a last payday. "There were many other places which offered much more money. I could have gone to Saudi Arabia or the United States." There is every motivation, too, to prove Laporta wrong about the £8m transfer after the Barcelona president declared: "It was a big piece of business. For the past two years he was one of the players with the lowest yield on the pitch."
Chelsea's other new recruit, Jose Bosingwa, is also a Portu-guese international born elsewhere; in his case the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was a squad player alongside Deco at Porto in the triumphant Champions' League season, finding a regular place once Mourinho left for London and took the regular right-back Paulo Ferreira with him. Now he must challenge Ferreira again, as the umpteenth expensive right-back Chelsea have bought in the last four years.
At Euro 2008 Scolari used them both, with Ferreira on the left, although the presence of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge may prevent that. "If I'd have wanted an easy ride I'd have stayed at Porto," Bosingwa said. "I like a challenge. I'm prepared to fight. If I didn't believe in myself and my qualities I'd have stayed at Porto."
Chelsea leave for a three-match tour of Asia today and then play in a Moscow tournament, where their second opponents, intriguingly, could be Milan – with or without Kaka.