Vialli enticed to Chelsea by Gullit

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The Independent Online

Gianluca Vialli is on his way to west London and it took only a brief telephone chat with Ruud Gullit to convince the Juventus striker that his future lay at Chelsea.

"Ruud asked me what I wanted out of life, sporting and non-sporting," Vialli said yesterday. "After discussing it, he said 'Chelsea is the place for you. London has everything'.

"He is a friend, he speaks Italian and knows Italian soccer. His presence was certainly a factor."

The 31-year-old's three-year deal may cost Chelsea pounds 3m in wages but they paid no transfer fee. Under the Bosman ruling, Vialli can move freely when his contract ends on 30 June.

Vialli was looking for a new two-year contract from Juventus after captaining the club to European Cup victory on Wednesday but was offered a 12-month deal.

"In Italy, we say leaving is a bit like dying, but change is a bit like being reborn. I feel like a kid going off to play in a completely new environment with new challenges," he said.

Gullit, appointed Chelsea's player-coach after Glenn Hoddle accepted the England job, beat off the challenge of Rangers, Internazionale and Sampdoria to secure the signature of the striker who scored 16 goals in 59 internationals.

The bookmakers believe Vialli will follow in the footsteps of Jurgen Klinsmann and prove a huge success in England. He is quoted at 14-1 to finish top scorer in the Premiership while Chelsea's odds to win the Premiership have been sharply cut.

Klinsmann believes Vialli will fit in perfectly. "He's a fighter," the former Spurs striker said. "He doesn't just concentrate on a few balls in a game. He moves and runs for 90 minutes. He works like crazy for the team."

Vialli's debut is expected be in the Umbro Cup tournament at the City Ground, Nottingham, at the start of August. His first appearance at Stamford Bridge is scheduled for 11 August in Steve Clarke's testimonial. Chelsea players were understandably jubilant. Their Scottish striker, John Spencer, expects the Italian to put between 5,000 and 10,000 on the average attendance at Stamford Bridge. "I'm looking forward to playing with him next season," he said.

"I've already learned so much from Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit. Now we've got Vialli you can only listen and learn from class players like them, and hopefully Vialli will pass on his knowledge and experience."

Their defender Nigel Spackman said: "He is one of the top strikers in the world and would fit into any team. I am sure that because Ruud is in charge that had the biggest bearing on his decision to come here."

Juventus may be losing a striker but they are gaining a midfielder. The French international, Zinedine Zidane, is leaving Bordeaux and will play alongside his international colleague, Didier Deschamps, next season.

Another overseas striker could be on his way to London, this time heading east, and joining West Ham's foreign legion. Harry Redknapp is prepared to sign Portugal's Paulo Futre when the Milan player becomes a free agent on 30 June.

As one Italian striker comes to England, another may be on his way out. Nottingham Forest, seeking to raise money to bid for Dean Saunders, now at Galatasaray in Turkey, are prepared to accept offers for Andrea Silenzi because Frank Clark, the Forest manager, has to sell before he can buy.

"If we received an offer from an Italian club where we would recoup a reasonable slice of what we paid for Andy, then I would be willing to consider it,' Clark said. "But Andy is still under contract and it would all depend on whether he wants to leave or not. The last time I spoke to him he said he was happy here, just disappointed at the way things have turned out." West Ham and Coventry are also thought to be interested in Saunders.

Forest's goalkeeper, Mark Crossley, has ended speculation over his future by signing a new four-year deal with the City Ground club after talking to Leeds United.

Fernando Couto, the Portuguese international defender, will decide after the European Championship whether to join Rangers. Italy's Parma have been offered around pounds 2.75m by Rangers and the move now depends on the player.

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