Portsmouth were last night on the verge of selling midfielder Sulley Muntari to Internazionale for £12.7m to raise the funds to buy Chelsea's Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The move will also have ramifications for another Chelsea player, Frank Lampard, who was Inter's first-choice midfielder in this summer's transfer market, and may now have to wait to next year to sign a pre-contract agreement with the Italians and secure a move. But the feeling is growing that the 30-year-old, who has just one season left on his contract and has, so far, failed to sign the four-year deal on offer, demanding a five-year contract, does not really want to leave Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea remain adamant they are not going to increase their offer and while Lampard has threatened to run down his deal – or even invoke Article 17 of Fifa regulations allowing him to effectively walk out – there is a sense that a compromise may be reached within the next month. Despite the imminent signing of Muntari, and coach Jose Mourinho's claim that they need only one more player, continued interest in Lampard from Inter cannot be discounted.
It is understood that Muntari has agreed a four-year deal and will return to Italy, where the Ghanaian made his name at Udinese before joining Portsmouth for £7m, after just one campaign in the Premier League. Sources in Italy say an announcement should be made in the next two days. The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, has been reluctant to sell the 23-year-old but is willing to sacrifice Muntari if it allows him to purchase Wright-Phillips. Redknapp also plans to alter Portsmouth's formation – playing 4-4-2 – after buying Peter Crouch for a fee that could rise to £11m to partner Jermain Defoe. He realises that he has sufficient cover in central midfield without Muntari and is also considering an offer from Rangers to sign Pedro Mendes for £3m, but the Portuguese's wages may be a problem for the Glasgow club, while Sean Davis remains up for sale.
Redknapp, who is also in the market for a left-back and wants Reading's Nicky Shorey, does need to find width, especially on the right which has prompted his renewed interest in Wright-Phillips. The 26-year-old England international is also wanted by Aston Villa – who have given up on trying to sign Blackburn's David Bentley – but has already held discussions with Redknapp after being informed by Chelsea at the end of last season that he can leave.
Initially Chelsea, who are close to selling Tal Ben Haim to Manchester City and are encouraging clubs to sign Claudio Pizarro, with River Plate announcing yesterday they had been interested in signing the Peruvian but could not afford his salary, demanded a fee of around £10m for Wright-Phillips. But they may be willing to accept £8m especially if Portsmouth, who are likely to miss out on Tottenham's Younes Kaboul, are willing to pay Wright-Phillips the £70,000 a week he is thought to command at Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, reiterated yesterday that the club are still interested in signing Robinho from Real Madrid. Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari added: "Robinho is a great player. He plays for one of the best teams in the world and also Brazil." Chelsea are confident Robinho will be in their colours by the end of August.
l The Scottish Football Association have reiterated their opposition to a British Olympic team after the British Olympic Association chairman, Lord Moynihan, pledged there would definitely be one for 2012. The SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, said: "As we have said many times, we feel such a move would threaten the independent status of the home nations."Reuse content