Chelsea finally admitted defeat last night in their pursuit of Milan's Brazilian star Kaka. The club's owner Roman Abramovich baulked at the world record £73m fee that would have been required to steal the initiative away from Real Madrid and they have now accepted that the player will not be coming to Stamford Bridge.
The club said in a statement last night that reports they had made a £73.5m bid were not accurate. The Independent reported on Tuesday that Kaka was Abramovich's No 1 target once the deal to bring Carlo Ancelotti to the club as manager had been completed, but the London club were too far behind Madrid to be able to change the player's mind over the last two days.
Abaramovich had sought a face-to-face meeting with Kaka but as it became clear yesterday from the club's contacts within Milan that the Brazilian had no real interest in coming to Chelsea, they gave up. Neither Abramovich nor the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, have tabled a further bid for the player who is in Brazil preparing for his country's two forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Chelsea had prepared the way for Kaka's arrival by sanctioning personal terms that were far in excess of the £135,000-a-week wages commanded by top earners John Terry and Frank Lampard. They were also confident that those players would not complain about earning radically less than the Brazilian. However, the club were not prepared to continue pressing on with negotiations with Milan for Kaka if the player himself was totally uncommitted to joining.
So eager were Chelsea to draw a line under their pursuit of Kaka that they released a statement last night denying that they had made an "extraordinary" offer. Club officials believed that there was the potential for them to look foolish if it was believed that even a bid of £73m, well in excess of the current world record transfer fee, was not enough to sign him. "We have never made an offer to Milan for Kaka," a Chelsea spokesman said.
Abramovich is still planning to make one major signing this summer, with Franck Ribéry from Bayern Munich the obvious target. Chelsea have offered a new three-year deal to Didier Drogba which he has not yet signed. The Ivorian striker has been petitioning for a new deal ever since he was unable to earn a move last summer and his continued presence at the club would seem to suggest that a move for Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor is not in the offing.
Another potential target is Samuel Eto'o who was made available by the Barcelona president Joan Laporta yesterday. The striker finished second-highest goalscorer in La Liga with 30 goals last season and is contracted until next year but with no plans to offer him a new deal, Laporta conceded that Eto'o was available. Laporta said: "The market is very dynamic and there might be a surprise because he is a much-coveted player."
As well as offering a new contract to Drogba, the French winger Florent Malouda is also to be given a new deal after he flourished under Guus Hiddink in the later part of the season. Chelsea are still interested in the Russian winger Yuri Zhirkov who plays for CSKA Moscow and is available for around £15m, however he does not fit the bill of the high-profile star that Abramovich wants to launch the Ancelotti era.
Aside from signing Portsmouth's Glen Johnson and the goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, of Middlesbrough, available on a free, Chelsea have a number of players whom they wish to release. The most senior among those is the Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho who has lost his place in the team to Brazilian Alex da Costa. Yesterday, Carvalho, 31, who has struggled with a knee injury all season was unequivocal that his future lay away from Stamford Bridge.
Carvalho said: "First they [Chelsea] have to reach an agreement with the club and then talk to me, but I am available for whoever wants me the most. It has been the worst year of my life, with injury after injury. I want to be where I feel good. It's obvious that it's hard now to respond to these questions because I had four fantastic years at Chelsea and this last year hasn't been good at all."
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