Liverpool last night rejected a £35m bid from Premier League champions Chelsea for Fernando Torres.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sanctioned the bid for the striker, which would have been a record transfer between English clubs, eclipsing the £30m Manchester United paid Leeds United for Rio Ferdinand in July 2002, in an attempt to revive the Blues title defence, which had been on a crash course until Monday’s 4-0 hammering of Bolton Wanderers.
However, the bid from Abramovich, coming in the wake of a reported £52m double deal for the Atletico Madrid pairing of Argentina forward Sergio Aguero and Uruguayan defender Diego Godin which was turned down by the Spanish club, was rejected by Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group.
A Liverpool spokesman last night confirmed: “Chelsea have made a bid for Fernando which has been turned down. The player is not for sale.”
The Blues have harboured a long-term admiration of Torres and have failed to prise away the 26-year-old striker before.
Yet, despite the strikers remarkable dip in form this season, dating back to a goalless World Cup with his country, Roman Abramovich and Carlo Ancelotti see the striker as the catalyst in a new era at Stamford Bridge, and the man who could spark a title tilt in the second-half of the Premier League season, although the Blues currently trail leaders Manchester United by ten points in the title race
All the same, Liverpool would be loathe to lose their star asset, especially to such a major rival, as they look to improve their own fortunes.
After a dismal start to the season, which has seen the sacking of Roy Hodgson and the return of Kenny Dalglish as manager at Anfield, the Reds have made their way to seventh in the league table, but are still some way off from the Champions League reckoning.
Nevertheless, Torres has started, particularly since the return as manager of Dalglish – with whom the player has a good relationship – to show glimpses of the striker that 18-months ago was seen as the best centre-forward in world football, while he has always been held in the highest regard and had a great rapport with the Liverpool supporters.
But whilst a Champions League place for a second successive season looks unlikely, Torres is likely to be interested in a move away from Anfield, so as he can participate in Europe’s premier club competition.
The Spaniard had agreed a deal with Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool’s former owners, last summer, that if they didn’t make the Champions League this season then he could leave.
That deal, and the promise of new ownership and investment, was enough to ward off interest from Chelsea and Manchester City at that time.
And, whilst new ownership has arrived, the investment is yet to, despite Damien Comolli’s attempts to snag Ajax striker Luis Suarez away from the Dutch club to partner Torres – Liverpool have had a bid of £12.8m rejected for the Uruguayan, with Ajax holding out for closer to £25m – whilst bids for Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam have also been rejected.
Chelsea have also been blocked in attempts to bolster their squad in the current transfer window, with the club having reached an impasse with Benfica over the Brazilian international defender David Luiz.
However, what the bids do prove is the faith that Chelsea owner Abramovich retains in Carlo Ancelotti, his sides manager.
The big question is now whether Abramovich returns to Liverpool with a bigger offer, in his attempts to snare the player away from Anfield before the transfer window closes.
Or do Chelsea wait and bide their time until the summer, when Liverpool’s position in keeping hold of Torres may indeed be weaker, in particular if there is no European football at Anfield.
1pm Update: According to Sky Sports Guillem Balague, Torres has asked Liverpool’s board to consider allowing him to move to Chelsea.
The Spaniard is believed to be keen on challenging for major honours, and feels he is unlikely to be able to in the near future at Anfield.
The player has spent three-and-a-half-years on Merseyside and his advisers have asked Liverpool to allow Torres to listen to Chelsea’s offer.
Furthermore, it is understood that there is no £50m buy-out clause in Torres contract, so any deal would have to go through the Liverpool board before Torres can talk to the Blues.