Davids poised and Ranieri at risk as Chelsea revolution begins

Alan Nixon
Saturday 05 July 2003 00:00 BST

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Louise Thomas

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As Chelsea survey the transfer market from an entirely new perspective, they are planning several ambitious manoeuvres - which may include signing up a high-profile manager.

While Ronaldinho's people were yesterday insisting that the Brazilian wants to sign for Manchester United despite a late move by Chelsea, the Londoners were in talks with Juventus to sign Edgar Davids in a £10m deal.

The Italian club confirmed that agents working for Chelsea's new Russian owner Roman Abramovich have made a bid for their Dutch midfielder, and have also asked about the Chilean striker Marcelo Salas. Davids is the priority for Abramovich who wants an élite midfielder to go with a top-class defender and proven striker.

Davids has only one year left on his contract and as Juve have already signed his long-term replacement - the Ghanaian Stephan Appiah from Parma - they may sell. Roma are also interested in Davids, but their financial problems make them unlikely to be able to compete with Chelsea.

The Salas part of the deal would appear to be less attractive as the 29-year-old has failed to sparkle in the past couple of seasons. And with Chelsea pressing on with moves for Leeds United's Harry Kewell - and the somewhat hopeful proposal to buy Thierry Henry from Arsenal - Salas is not a priority. Kewell, also a target for United, Arsenal and Liverpool, but may be staying at Leeds, whose chairman Professor John McKenzie said he expects the Australian to report back for pre-season training next week.

The Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, may find that all this takes place without him. Betting on the first Premiership manager likely to lose his job was suspended yesterday after rumours that the Italian could be vulnerable.

His Roma counterpart, Fabio Capello, revealed his pleasure at being touted as a possible replacement, though his club said he would be staying put. "I am pleased that my name continues to circulate in the market," Capello said, while Ranieri admitted that he feels under threat. "I know the rules of the game and I know that when a club changes owner anything can happen," he said.

Abramovich has also made a £15m offer to Paris St-Germain for Ronaldinho, topping United's poor first offer by some distance. But while PSG were willing to talk, Chelsea drew a blank when an approach was made to the Ronaldinho camp, who said the World Cup-winner is now keen to go to Manchester above all the other alternatives.

Chelsea's 12,000 shareholders will receive a written offer for their shares next week as Abramovich bids to take the club private. He is now in control of the club after acquiring 50.09 per cent of the club's shares. However, Abramovich's aim is to own all 100 per cent and then take the club private, and he will begin phase two of his plan next week. A spokesman for Citigate Dewe Rogerson, his public relations advisers, said: "A formal offer document will be posted to all 12,000 shareholders next week and they will be offered 35 pence per share, which is the same amount Mr Abramovich paid for the shares he bought this week."

Although there are 12,000 shareholders in Chelsea Village, the football club's holding company, more than 90 per cent of the remaining shares are owned by about 50 people.

United yesterday declined to comment on a report that the racehorse owners John Magnier and JP McManus are on the verge of selling their 10.37 per cent stake, worth £40m.

Real Madrid might have sold 8,000 David Beckham shirts in the 24 hours after the England captain's move from United but they still lag well behind Old Trafford's marketing expertise. United say they have sold 1.8m red home shirts since last August.

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