Chelsea swoop for Barcelona's teenage midfielder Romeu

Tim Rich
Friday 22 July 2011 00:00

Chelsea were last night closing on the signing of Barcelona midfielder Oriol Romeu. Barça want €5m (£4.35m) for the 19-year-old defensive midfielder, who can also play as a central defender and was one of two Catalan youngsters wanted by manager Andre Villas-Boas – the other being Thiago Alcantara, who will stay at the Nou Camp until 2015 after signing a new contract this month.

A robust Spain U-20 international, Romeu was given his debut at the start of last season before returning to the second string, where he was ever-present in midfield. He recovered from a right knee-ligament injury that kept him out for four months to finish the season impressively at centre-back.

On Chelsea's tour of the Far East, Villas-Boas was meanwhile telling the media to stop "obsessing" about the inability of £50m striker Fernando Torres to find the back of the net

"I would not turn it into an obsession, like you people are trying to do," Villas-Boas said after Torres drew another blank in a surprisingly hard-fought 1-0 Chelsea victory over a Malaysian XI here last night. "The most important thing is to win. It doesn't matter who scores; these are pre-season games and it is important to get a feel of your team. I will never turn it into my obsession.

"My obsession is to win trophies with this team. I don't want to talk about individual strikers. I prefer to talk about a 'forward sector'. People need to have confidence to find the back of the net and confidence comes from tolerance, which is what we don't have at the moment. Every time I go into a press conference we are talking about a player who hasn't scored."

Given that Alan Shearer once remarked that the only way to judge a striker is by the number of goals he scores, then one goal in 18 games – and that a tap-in against West Ham – might leave Torres found very wanting.

He has scored in pre-season but that was against Wycombe Wanderers in a game played behind closed doors. Here, there were 84,980 fans pressed into the Bukit Jalil National Stadium and you sensed that many of them and all of Torres' team-mates were willing a man who two years ago seemed the best centre-forward in the world to find the net against what was essentially a Malaysia Under-23 side.

The crowd was bigger even than it had been for Liverpool last week and the noise levels rose to a peak when Didier Drogba walked on to the pitch at the start of the second half. It was his free-kick, 15 minutes from time, that settled the issue, rebounding off the post, striking the keeper, Mohammad Tarmizi, and then rolling in.

At no time in Chelsea's three pre-season games – has Villas-Boas played Drogba and Torres together. He appeared irritated by the suggestion he was deliberately avoiding seeing how his two most valuable forwards would perform together. "That is another obsession with you," he said. "When the two are paired together, they will be paired together but that will be the decision of the technical staff. Things don't happen in three weeks."

As he has since his arrival in Malaysia, Villas-Boas stressed that he would not be hurried into making signings. He said the deal for Genk's 19-year-old goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, had yet to go through, although he had passed a medical.

The manager also played down suggestions he was on the point of signing Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht, who have confirmed there has been contact with Chelsea over the 18-year-old striker. "Let us wait and see; you know how frantic the market gets in the last week of August," said Villas-Boas. "I know the fans want excitement and radical changes but it is important we sit back and assess things."

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