Abramovich flies to South Africa to woo Torres
Chelsea make their move - but could Torres be another Shevchenko?
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is so intent on signing Fernando Torres that he has flown to South Africa to hold talks with the Spanish striker in person about a £50m move to Stamford Bridge.
It is Chelsea's first shot in what could become a very messy battle over Torres. His current employers Liverpool do not want to sell their prize asset, but Chelsea, along with Manchester City and possibly Barcelona, are keen to sign him.
The situation has not been helped by Torres' involvement in the World Cup. The Spanish squad are preparing for their semi-final showdown with Germany and the 27-year-old has told new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson that he will not discuss his future at Anfield until the tournament is over.
According to his agents Torres would be happy to stay on Merseyside, but his suitors are convinced he wants to leave after a dismal season that saw the club finish seventh in the Premier League and part company with manager Rafa Benitez.
Abramovich's trip to South Africa is a clear statement of intent on Chelsea's part. But it seems likely that their opening bid of £50m will fall short of the mark. Liverpool value the player at £70m, and Hodgson will not want to let his star striker go without a fight, particularly as there are serious question marks over futures of other Anfield stars including Javier Mascherano (linked with Barcelona) and Steven Gerrard (a Real Madrid target).
However, the spectre of a previous Chelsea signing hangs over the whole affair. The last time Abramovich became so personally involved in a transfer was when he insisted that his club brought another forward, Andriy Shevchenko, from AC Milan for £30.8m in 2006.
The move was widely seen as a disaster as Shevchenko failed dismally at Stamford Bridge and managed nine goals in 48 games for the Blues before he was shipped back to Milan on loan.
Torres could be seen as a safer bet than Shevchenko - who was over the hill when he arrived in London - but there is still an element of risk. The Spaniard underwent knee surgery before the World Cup and has yet to score for Spain in the tournament. On current form he hardly looks worth £50m and appears the shadow of the player who scored 72 goals in 116 Liverpool appearances. ·
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