Chelsea will continue discussions with Gary Cahill's representatives this weekend over personal terms and are confident they will complete the signing of the England centre-half early next week.
A fee of around £7m has been settled with Bolton Wanderers for the 26-year-old, whose contract at the Reebok Stadium is due to expire at the end of the season. Owen Coyle intends to select Cahill for Saturday's critical game against Wolverhampton Wanderers but is resigned to life without the defender once the window opens on Sunday and is actively seeking a replacement.
At present Chelsea and Cahill remain at odds over the size of his prospective salary but André Villas-Boas, while making it known that he continues to monitor alternatives both domestically and abroad, believes a compromise will be reached before rival suitors emerge. "It's in the hands of my chief executive [Ron Gourlay]," said the Chelsea manager. "It's an ongoing conversation and the best outcome for us is the player joining. I think we can sort it out. It should be no problem but at present we're miles apart regarding an agreement with the player.
"Gary's technical attributes are immense. His pace is fantastic as well. He's a player who has been playing magnificently well at international level, normally alongside John Terry, and he can add to this squad or any squad in the Premier League. He can make this jump. There are weaknesses but they're also related to Bolton's collective organisation. Normally the collective also makes the individual stand out. We believe that, with our collective organisation, we can improve the individual form of the player."
Villas-Boas may seek to add one more player to his ranks during the window given Nicolas Anelka's sale to Shanghai Shenhua and the anticipated absence of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to the Africa Cup of Nations. Yet their expenditure is not expected to match the £73.5m outlay made on Fernando Torres and David Luiz at the same stage last season. "This squad are the players we have set out to win four trophies," said the manager. "We would be calling ourselves incompetent by going on to make radical changes just because the market opens.
"Apart from a central defender I really don't know if we will be adding anyone else. We are always looking for talent but January is difficult because that talent is not always available. And, if it is, it's available only at extra cost. Hopefully we will finish the deal with Cahill and then, regarding the forward situation, we will study it and decide whether it's worth [entering the market again] or not."
The likeliest arrival remains the Juventus attacker Milos Krasic on loan, with the bulk of Chelsea's transfer business to be done in the summer. There may be interest to field in their own players, particularly following Carlo Ancelotti's appointment by Paris St-Germain on a two-and-a-half-year contract. The Qatari-backed French league leaders will attempt to sign the likes of Alexandre Pato and Kaká from Milan and Real Madrid respectively but could also pursue Florent Malouda, particularly with the France international frustrated by life on the fringe of the first-team at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, the emergence of money-flushed clubs such as PSG, as well as in China and the Middle East, will challenge Chelsea's ability to recruit the best in future even if Villas-Boas believes the Londoners will retain a lure to prospective signings. "New clubs with new ambitions and great financial power will be involved in great transfer market activity, and that can attract players," added the Portuguese. "But look at what is being built here and our recent history in the Premier League, of winning titles. The most successful period of the club has happened from 2000 onwards. I would say this plays a part in any player's ambition. It is possible to make a step forward from this club, but there are only five or six clubs in the world with the same history, prestige, economic stability and facilities. That must play highly in a player's motivation and ambition."
Villas-Boas will meet his technical staff over the next few days to decide whether Josh McEachran should be loaned out firm bids have yet materialised for the transfer-listed centre-half Alex.
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image: © Jason Bagley