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Chelsea tipped for more big spending
Clare Lovell | January 15, 2004 21:25 IST
Chelsea, backed by Roman Abramovich's millions, proved this week how loudly money can talk in soccer by thumping two ailing sides 4-0.
Speculation is rife that the fashionable London club are still not content with their high profile squad and will become one of only a few teams to make more expensive purchases before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
After a dip in form during December, Chelsea slid from first to third in the English Premier League table behind Manchester United and Arsenal. But they put four goals past Leicester City last Sunday and, without looking their best, beat Watford by the same score in an FA Cup replay on Wednesday.
Leicester, struggling in the relegation zone, were forced to seek creditor protection last year before being bought out by a consortium backed by former England striker Gary Lineker. They are unlikely to be dipping into the market.
First division Watford are fighting for financial survival after losing money since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2000 and they looked on the two games against Chelsea as a welcome boost of about 700,000 pounds ($1.28 million) to their coffers.
Despite his team's defeat Watford coach Ray Lewington, who may be able to restore pay levels after the players took a voluntary cut, commented: "The chairman's smiling."
Chelsea's next FA Cup opponents are minor league Scarborough for whom the 500,000 pounds they are likely to earn from the tie is like manna from heaven.
"Financially this is beyond our wildest dreams," Scarborough chairman Malcolm Reynolds said.
By contrast Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri spent around $180 million of oil tycoon Abramovich's money on new players in last year's close season transfer window.
Though the Italian coach refuses to confirm or comment on any deals, constant newspaper rumours have inflated the speculative prices of many big names.
British newspapers say Chelsea's interest in Italy striker Christian Vieri has waned because of Inter Milan's 21 million pound price tag.
Inter directors met Abramovich at the Watford game to offer an exchange deal that would take striker Adrian Mutu to Milan but the offer was turned down on a night when the Romanian scored twice, the London Evening Standard reported on Thursday.
Chelsea have also been linked with neighbouring Fulham's French striker Louis Saha, who has said he wants to move to Manchester United. On Thursday Fulham said Chelsea had made no approach and described speculation they had put a $32 million price tag on Saha as nonsense.
Paris St German said the Chelsea club had been chasing Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze but their approach had been turned down. London side Charlton said the same about their promising midfielder Scott Parker.
Chelsea may be less anxious about their midfield following the return of Ireland winger Damien Duff, whose four-week absence with a dislocated shoulder coincided with two Premier League defeats.
"It is very important to have him back," Ranieri said. "When he goes with the ball one on one he is devastating."
The slump in form exposed weaknesses at the back, however, particularly when John Terry was being rested, and a defender could well be on the shopping list.
With two weeks left for buying Ranieri is giving nothing away, insisting he is happy with his squad.
"I am already at the station meeting all these players," he joked about the speculation. "Even my mother believes all the newspapers and TV and does not believe her son."