London – Chelsea are preparing to join the dash for Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa as Rafa Benitez seeks firepower to complement Fernando Torres.
Having restored the goal instinct of Torres within a month of taking over from Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez is keen to provide more support and cover for his only established centre forward.
Bayer Leverkusen’s versatile young striker Andre Schurrle remains a serious target but Villa is available, possibly on a loan deal until the end of the season, which means he would not interfere with Chelsea’s long-term pursuit of Radamel Falcao.
Benitez accepts it will be difficult and expensive to prise the Colombia striker Falcao from Atletico Madrid next month but this swoop – or even a move for Newcastle United’s Demba Ba – may be more achievable in the summer.
Villa provides an attractive short-term solution for Chelsea. At 31, Spain’s record goalscorer does not fit their ideal profile for young players with their best years ahead of them but he is fading from favour at the Nou Camp and knows how to dovetail with Torres after their years together at international level.
Villa is understood to earn £110,000 a week, which is near the top of the Stamford Bridge pay structure but not out of reach. He can operate at centre forward if Torres is unavailable or play from wide either side, giving Benitez a valuable option in his quest to rotate his support strikers and keep them fresh.
Arsenal are among other clubs interested in Villa, who has not started a La Liga game for Barcelona since mid-November, but the Champions League will not provide any incentive for the striker because he is already cup-tied in that competition. However, he would be free to play for Chelsea in the Europa League.
Daniel Sturridge’s proposed move to Liverpool means that Chelsea must recruit in January. The back-up option is to recall Romelu Lukaku from West Bromwich Albion, although it is widely agreed that the best thing for the teenager’s continued development is to spend the rest of the season at the Hawthorns.
Winger Victor Moses played as a centre forward for the last 23 minutes of the 8-0 romp against Aston Villa on Sunday but he has been named in the Nigeria squad for the Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria have also selected John Mikel Obi and have asked players to report to a training camp in Portugal tomorrow.
Eden Hazard featured at centre forward in a disastrous experiment away to Juventus in the Champions League. Chelsea lost 3-0, a defeat which virtually sealed their fate in the competition, and Di Matteo was sacked a few hours later. – Daily Mail