Chelsea step up chase for £50m Torres

CHELSEA are today expected to test Liverpool’s determination to hold on to Fernando Torres by increasing their British record bid, in what looks likely to be a frantic final few hours of transfer activity.

The Blues had an initial offer of £35m turned down on Thursday but are likely to return with an improved bid in an attempt to force through a deal for the Spain striker before tonight’s 11pm deadline.

Torres has told the Anfield hierarchy he wants to leave and is thought to have a clause in his contract allowing him to move if a club pays £50m. Liverpool, however, have let it be known they would accept a bid of nearer £40m if Chelsea offer forward Nicolas Anelka in part-exchange.

It means the situation is delicately poised going into deadline day, after which much more is likely to be known of both clubs’ aspirations.

After a blistering start to the season, champions Chelsea have slipped dramatically off the pace, and are in genuine danger of missing out on a place in next season’s Champions League. Owner Roman Abramovich (inset) has forsaken his big-spending ways in recent seasons but appears ready to roll back the years and dip into his billions again to give his team an edge as they scrap for their top four status.

Torres is the biggest name on Chelsea’s shopping list, but manager Carlo Ancelotti has also asked for reinforcement in defence and a £25m move for Benfica’s David Luiz, which appeared to stall on Friday, could yet be resurrected.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have already shown ambition by signing Uruguay striker Luis Suarez from Ajax in a deal that could be worth up to £23m. Their American owners, the Fenway Sports Group, must now decide whether it is worth trying to keep an unhappy Torres or to sell him to one of their biggest rivals.

The Reds could use the money, not only to balance the Suarez signing but also to fund moves for Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam and Aston Villa winger Ashley Young. The sale of Young would help Villa balance the books this month following their swoops for Sunderland striker Darren Bent and Lyon midfielder Jean Makoun.

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has appeared to welcome a move for Torres, saying: “It remains to be seen what happens with the club – who they bring in – but world class players will always be very welcome from us.”

Abramovich can silence doubters with return to big-spending ways
THE OUTCOME of Chelsea’s pursuit of Fernando Torres will answer a handful of pertinent questions that have built up at Stamford Bridge.

First, how determined are they to finish in the top four? Signing a player of Torres’ quality could make all the difference – if they are willing to pay what is needed.

Second, how important are looming financial fair play rules? Splurging £75m on Torres and David Luiz would be hard to offset, leading to further losses.

Finally, how interested is Roman Abramovich nowadays? Is a recent cut in spending a sign of waning enthusiasm, or is he still in love with the club enough to write huge cheques when it matters? By 11pm we should know the answers.