Roman Abramovich attempted to revive Chelsea’s faltering Premier League title defence last night with an audacious £35m bid for the Liverpool striker Fernando Torres. The offer was dismissed out of hand by Liverpool’s new owner, Fenway Sports Group.
Chelsea have a long-standing interest in the Spain striker, whose form has improved in recent weeks under his new manager, Kenny Dalglish, and are known to have failed in one previous bid for the 26-year-old. Nevertheless, their sudden, late interest in this transfer window has come as a major surprise but has not tempted Liverpool into selling their prize asset as FSG looks to strengthen and not weaken Dalglish’s squad in the final four days of the window.
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 champions’ offer represented a transfer record between two British clubs and would have surpassed the £30.8m Abramovich paid to Milan for Andriy Shevchenko in July 2006. However, it fell significantly short of the £50m release clause that Torres had inserted last summer in his Liverpool contract, which has two and a half years to run.
Liverpool granted the player the escape clause as part of the negotiations to keep him at Anfield at the end of last season. Torres was deeply dismayed at the lack of investment in the squad in the final years of Tom Hicks’s and George Gillett’s disastrous reign and the failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League, and was aware of interest in him from Chelsea and Manchester City.
He eventually elected to remain at Anfield following promises of new ownership and fresh investment, the former arriving with October’s £300m takeover by FSG but the latter yet to materialise as the club continue to haggle with Ajax over the Uruguay international Luis Suárez. Liverpool have offered £12.8m for the striker but Ajax are insisting on £30m and a compromise will continue to be sought.
Chelsea are also attempting to sign the Benfica defender David Luiz before the window shuts, although that deal has stalled over the payment of the £25.5m transfer fee, and their move for Torres provides confirmation of Abramovich’s backing for the manager, Carlo Ancelotti.
Abramovich must return with an improved offer to prise Torres from Anfield or hope the striker will submit a transfer request. Another season without Champions League football beckons for Liverpool but it appears unlikely at this stage that Torres, who has pledged loyalty to Anfield in recent months and has a close rapport with Dalglish, would stun his employers with such a move. Chelsea refused to comment on the offer last night.