Friday, January 9, 2009

Angel Di Maria heads Chelsea shopping list

Chelsea are ready to give Luiz Felipe Scolari the additional attacking threat that the manager believes he needs to fulfil the squad’s potential by launching a summer bid for Ángel Di María.

Scolari would prefer to sign the Benfica winger during this month’s transfer window because he is concerned about a lack of width in his side, but with the club reluctant to sanction any additional spending as they strive for self-sufficiency, the Brazilian has accepted that he must wait until the end of the season.

Scolari is in full agreement with Chelsea’s new policy of signing young players on modest wages with a potentially high resale value. He has identified Di María, 20, an Argentina international, as among the best of the next generation and made him one of his principal transfer targets. Benfica bought Di María from Rosário Central in July 2007 for ¤8 million (then about £5.4 million) and, after two good seasons in Portugal, his transfer value has increased to £15 million.

Di María has also attracted interest from Real Madrid, but Chelsea are confident that their links with his agent, Jorge Mendes, will help them to complete the deal. Mendes sprang to prominence through representing José Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager and now Inter Milan coach, and has become one of the most influential agents in Europe and South America, while retaining a close relationship with the London club.

Chelsea are planning an overhaul of their squad at the end of the season, regardless of what they win in the meantime. Di María made his name by helping Argentina to win the Under-20 World Cup in 2007 with a series of outstanding performances that alerted Benfica and elevated him to the full national squad. He has won two caps and scored the only goal in the gold-medal match against Nigeria at last year’s Olympics in Beijing.

Chelsea's shortage of wide players was highlighted when Robinho opted to join Manchester City last summer, with Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou likely to pay for their poor performances by being sold at the end of the season.

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