Soccer article by the Miami Herald’s Santos Perez
Chelsea is feeling less generous
Posted on Sun, Jan. 04, 2009
BY SANTOS A. PEREZ
The winter transfer period began Thursday, and European clubs covet reinforcements for a second-half run at league titles or unloading expensive and expiring contracts.
Since purchasing Chelsea in 2003, Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich has spent extravagantly, and in the process he built a Premier League power.
Now Blues manager Luiz Felipe Scolari looks for continued support from Abramovich as Chelsea, currently second in the Premiership table, battles leader Liverpool and third-place Manchester United and Aston Villa.
But British media report Abramovich might not be as generous this time around, preferring that the club reduce payroll instead.
The move would signal a complete turnaround from an owner who paid a then-record transfer fee of about
$43 million for Andriy Shevchenko in 2006.
Inter Milan showed an interest in Chelsea forward Didier Drogba, who would reunite with former Blues manager Jose Mourinho. But the current Italian Serie A leader apparently will have to wait until next season to acquire Drogba.
With Drogba likely unavailable as an immediate transfer pickup, Inter Milan will pursue Newcastle United forward Michael Owen. Owen has an expiring contract and could sign elsewhere next season.
If Scolari, in his first season as Chelsea boss, convinces Abramovich to loosen the purse strings again, the reported transfer targets are strikers Luis Fabiano of Spanish-league club Sevilla, Wagner Love, currently with CSKA Moscow and Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery.
But any efforts at landing Ribery would come at a high cost. Bayern Munich reportedly has placed a 60-million-pound transfer tag on the
25-year-old Ribery, who also is being coveted by Manchester United.
Arsenal is making a push for Zenit Saint Petersburg midfielder Andrei Arshavin of the Russian first division. The reported price on a possible Arshavin transfer ranges between $18 million and
The Gunners currently trail Liverpool by 10 points in the Premier League standings. Their first half performance has impressed manager Arsene Wenger, but the addition of a veteran like the 27-year-old Arshavin would further improve Arsenal’s hopes at overtaking Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Aston Villa.
”We already have many young players so, if we buy, it will be somebody who is ready to play straight away,” Wenger told the British media. “A loan deal could also be a possibility.”
Arshavin also has caught the attention of new Real Madrid manager Juande Ramos. But the defending Spanish League champions, currently fifth in La Liga table, recently signed former Arsenal midfielder Lassandra Diarra and AFC Ajax striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
ETO’O LEADS BARCA
In the weeks leading to the Spanish League season opener last summer, Barcelona forward Samuel Eto’o was considered a likely departure. New Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola looked for a roster makeover in an effort to return Barca to the top of the league standings.
Ronaldinho and Deco didn’t fit into Guardiola’s plans and moved to AC Milan and Chelsea, respectively. Eto’o also seemed headed out of Spain.
But Guardiola retained Eto’o, and the move paid off. The Cameroon native has scored a league-leading
15 goals, helping Barca open a 10-point lead over Sevilla.
Considered a disruptive influence last season, Eto’o, 27, has become an exemplary team player. Guardiola recently rewarded Eto’o with a three-day break, but Eto’o ended it early and returned to team practices.
Guardiola’s ability to fit Eto’o into a team structure and return Barca to league supremacy has won admiration from club president Joan Laporta.
”We thought things would go well because he knows more about football and about the club than just about anyone, plus, he’s also from here as a home-grown player and manager,” Laporta said of Guardiola on the team’s website. “We’ve only just started, really, and there’s still some way to go. But we believe things are on the right lines.”
While Barcelona enjoys its current lofty status, defending league champion Real Madrid is in fifth place and
12 points behind Barcelona. A start of nine wins, five losses and three draws cost first-year manager Bern Schunster his job last month.
Ramos, who guided Tottenham Hotspur in 2007-08, replaced Schunster for the remainder of the season.
”All professionals dream of getting here, and it is impossible to say no,” Ramos said recently in Spain’s El Mundo newspaper. “I have been at this for 20 years, and it has been very successful, but to reach a plateau like Real Madrid — nothing eclipses that.”
This report includes material from Miami Herald wire services.