Krul, Tiote, Hulk and Falcao on Chelsea's £90m wishlist
Abramovich to dust of chequebook as Arsenal eye up Udinese's Isla, Benatia and Handanovic
WHO KNOWS who the Chelsea manager will be by the summer but the candidates had better get used to signing cheques after Roman Abramovich cleared the way for a dramatic £90m spending spree.
And, according to the Daily Mail, the Blues will head to the Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle to begin their splurge. The paper claims that midfielder Cheick Tiote and keeper Tim Krul top the Chelsea hitlist.
Tiote, apparently, has earned admirers throughout the Premier League and Chelsea may face competition from Liverpool and Manchester United.
After that it is off to the warmer climes of Iberia where Ambramovich has decided to spend £34m on Porto's Brazilian striker Hulk and make a £30m swoop for Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao (above). The irony there is that they are the two strikers that helped propel Andre Villas Boas into the Stamford Bridge hot-seat by performing so well when he was their boss at Porto.
One suspects that their former manager may counsel them against a move to west London.
It appears to be a case of will the last player to leave Udinese please turn out the lights. Talksport reports that both Mehdi Benatia and Mauricio Isla could be on their way out of the Italian club in the summer, with Arsenal and Liverpool apparently vying for the pair.
Napoli are also said to be making enquires and Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzo seems resigned to losing 24-year-old Benatia, a Moroccan defender, and 23-year-old Isla, a Chilean midfielder. "At the end of the season we will see what happens, but it is certainly true that several clubs have asked about these players," Benatia told Radio Kiss Kiss.
Sky Italia says the Gunners are also keeping tabs on Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic after the Slovenian shot-stopper declared he wanted a fresh challenge at the end of the season.
Arsenal have been linked to the 27-year-old Handanovic in the past and despite the recent strong performances between the sticks from Wojciech Szczesny, Arsene Wenger is believed to want better back-up than either Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski can provide. Speaking to Italian Sky TV, Handanovic said: "I am ambitious, but if I leave Udinese it will only be to sign for a great club. The president knows this."
Still with the Gunners and The Sun says that Toulouse centre-back Aymen Abdennour is on their radar. Apparently Wenger "has been trailing" the £5m-rated Tunisian defender for six months with scouts present in France at the weekend to see the 22-year-old help Toulouse to a 1-0 defeat of Rennes.
On the other side of north London, Tottenham are reported to be taking a strong interest in Manuel Fernandes. Turkish rag Haberturk says that the Lilywhites will likely make a £15m offer for the Portuguese midfielder in the summer in the expectation that Besiktas will be only too keen to sell. The Portugal playmaker has experience of the Premier League after loan spells with Everton and Portsmouth and, according to Haberturk, "representatives of the two clubs have already shaken on a deal".
Elsewhere, Portuguese daily A Bola says Manchester United are lining up an audacious £25m bid for Internacional striker Leandro Damiao.
The 22-year-old frontman, who made his Brazil debut last year, has been linked to several European clubs, including Spurs and Real Madrid, but A Bola says United have been in contact with the South American outfit to express their interest and it's rumoured Damiao will be a replacement for Dimitar Berbatov who, as we reported on Monday, is set to leave Old Trafford in May.
United boss Alex Ferguson was in France the weekend before last to cast an expert eye over Lille winger Eden Hazard and now the Belgian star has given the once-over by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. Sky Sports reports that Mancini watched Hazard help Lille to victory over Valenciennes in the French league at the weekend, a fact that wasn't lost on the 21-year-old Hazard, rated one of Europe's brightest talents.
"I was aware that Roberto Mancini was there," Hazard is quoted by Sky Sports as saying. "I wasn't thinking about it. I was trying to play to the best of my abilities." Asked whether a move to City might be in the air, Hazard replied: "We'll see later. I'm concentrating on Lille this season."