Tottenham last night agreed a £3m fee with Everton for Steven Pienaar, which represents their first major victory over Chelsea in the transfer market since the Roman Abramovich revolution was launched in 2003.
The deal followed Chelsea's refusal to budge on the wages for the midfielder, who would have been out of contract at Everton in the summer and for whom they agreed a fee with the club last week. The Spurs chairman Daniel Levy spoke to his Everton counterpart Bill Kenwright yesterday to complete the transfer.
Despite their defeat in the pursuit of Pienaar, Chelsea are expected to make a renewed effort to sign the Benfica defender David Luiz after they learned that Alex has suffered another setback in his recovery from a knee injury.
The club have already had two bids for the Brazilian defender turned down but their need is the greater now that they fear Alex will not be back for another two weeks. They have previously offered £17m and then £19m plus the Portuguese defender Paulo Ferreira to Benfica.
The stance on Pienaar represents a new hardline policy from Chelsea not to bow to wage demands despite the club having been the biggest payers in English football before the Sheikh Mansour takeover of Manchester City. Chelsea said to Pienaar they would not match wages of up to £70,000-a-week that are believed to be around the level offered by Spurs. It is understood that Spurs was always Pienaar's first choice.
Although in the past Chelsea have shown less concern over breaking the regulations governing illegal approaches to players, they stuck to the rules on this occasion. There were also thought to be issues concerning agent's fees around the transfer of Pienaar.
Were he to see out his contract and become a free agent in July, Pienaar would have been in a position to earn a significant signing-on fee and wages, which his representatives wanted to be reflected in the deal he signed with Spurs.
The financial imperative to adhere to Uefa's new rules on financial fair play, that mean clubs losing more than around £9m a year will not be allowed to compete in the Champions League, is central to the way in which Chelsea have organised their finances. However, the deal for Luiz is testing the club's much leaner approach to transfer dealing.
Pienaar's Everton team-mate Sylvain Distin said that Everton should not find themselves in a position where they were losing their best players. Distin said: "It's disappointing to lose Steven. You don't want to lose one of your best players but that's football. Everywhere I've been it's been the same, there's not much we can do – just stay focused and carry on doing what we're doing.
"I don't think it's a done deal yet, but it's disappointing. It's not a good feeling when you hope for reinforcements and instead it's just talk about your best players going. But you never know if it's just speculation or it's the truth. All we can do is wait and see what happens in the transfer window but I would rather keep those two players that's for sure."