Rovers to seal season-long loan deal for Blues' Di Santo

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The Independent Online

Blackburn Rovers are confident that the Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, will sanction the release of the young Argentine striker Franco di Santo on a season's loan when the player has completed the London club's pre-season tour.

Chelsea are keen that the 20-year-old, who has been limited to eight starts since arriving at Stamford Bridge last year, should pick up Premier League experience. A loan arrangement was all but secured before Guus Hiddink's departure from Chelsea's management at the end of last season and, though Ancelotti's sanction is required, the arrival of a player who has been capped at Under-20s level for Argentina looks likely before Rovers kick off their campaign against Manchester City.

With only Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts left as front-line strikers, Rovers will still go looking for a more experienced forward to replace Roque Santa Cruz and there does not appear to have been a sell-on fee to Bayern Munich for Santa Cruz to limit them. The Rovers manager, Sam Allardyce, returned from his holidays yesterday and was due to discuss the options with his board. Though the idea of hiring Michael Owen from Newcastle has not been dismissed out of hand, Allardyce has yet to register any specific desire for a player with whom he did not always enjoy the best relationship when he managed him during his eight-month spell in charge at St James' Park . Though Portsmouth's Peter Crouch would also fit the bill, there is no optimism at Ewood that buying him might be feasible.

But Stoke City have joined Hull City is expressing their interest in signing Owen. The day after the Tigers' manager, Phil Brown, publicly declared his interest in taking the former Liverpool and Real Madrid star to the KC Stadium, Stoke's Tony Pulis has said he "would be interested in throwing my hat into the ring if it was viable", even though Stoke's direct game would seem less suited to Owen than perhaps any other Premier League side. "I'm not sure whether Michael would want to come here, but... he can rest assured our fans would treat him as one of their own," Pulis added.

Manchester City are exploring how to resolve their defensive problems. As yet, there has been no firm approach for £12m-valued Kolo Touré, with Joleon Lescott a player the club has higher up their list. The Everton manager, David Moyes, is resolved to resist a £15m approach and, though there is a possible notion of a cash deal involving Micah Richards, City feel that Richards has a future at Eastlands. Real Madrid have offered €5m (£4.2m) for Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, but Rafael Benitez's club want £5m.

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