Blues owner Roman Abramovich will arm his new coach with up to £100m to rebuild the squad in pursuit of elusive Champions League glory
By Greg Stobart
It took £13.2 million of Roman Abramovich's fortune for the Russian to appoint a manager to succeed Carlo Ancelotti – but that will be just the start of the Chelsea owner's summer spending.
Andre Villas-Boas was announced as the new Chelsea boss on Wednesday on a three-year contract after Abramovich paid the release clause to bring the Portuguese to Stamford Bridge from Porto.
At just 33, Villas-Boas is a novice in the managerial game but his achievements in his short spell at Porto – during which he won the Portuguese league and the Europa league – have made him the in vogue manager of European football.
Abramovich will have told Villas-Boas what is expected of him. That is Champions League glory, the tycoon's obsession that Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Avram Grant, Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri have all failed to deliver in the last eight years.
To get there, Abramovich is willing to provide all his financial muscle, with reports suggesting the club's summer transfer budget could be as high as £100m.
Just like Mourinho, the original Special One and his former boss, Villas-Boas is renowned within the game for his incredible attention to detail and his expertise when scouting both opponents and potential recruits.
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If the leaked scouting report he produced for Mourinho in 2005 is anything to go by, Villas-Boas will have plenty of opinions when he sits down to discuss transfer targets with his new employers.
After all, Chelsea have spent several weeks chasing the likes of Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric, for whom they have made a £22m bid, calling into question who has been calling the shots over transfer policy at the west London club.
It was considered that Hiddink, the initial first choice to take over from Ancelotti, had identified the targets, but the Dutchman now appears to be unlikely to re-join the club even as a director of football.
The immediate question is what Villas-Boas' appointment will mean for Chelsea's long-term targets such as Romelu Lukaku and Neymar.
Lukaku, the 18-year-old Belgian prodigy currently playing at Anderlecht, has been heavily linked with the Blues for the last two years and touted as a long-term replacement for his idol, Didier Drogba.
As Goal.com revealed at the start of the month, Chelsea are close to agreeing a deal worth £22m for Lukaku but have been waiting to appoint a new manager before confirming the deal.
Villas-Boas will be asked to rubber-stamp the deal but with limited squad places, if not transfer funds, the new coach might have other ideas.
Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge already provide an vast array of attacking talent, skills and experience and it is hard to see where new recruits will fit in unless two or three of the current strikers are sold.
In that context, Anelka and Kalou will be allowed to leave if the right offers come in, while Drogba is the target of much interest despite Chelsea's desire to keep him for one more year.
Last summer, Villas-Boas sanctioned the summer departures of two senior Porto players in Bruno Alves and Raul Meireles.
The two decisions raised a few eyebrows but Villas-Boas was vindicated as Porto stormed to the Portuguese title without losing a single game. He may look to do the same at Chelsea and bring in some younger talent.
Neymar, the Brazilian superstar at Santos, fits that billing and is another long-term target for both Chelsea and indeed all of the leading clubs across Europe, most notably Spanish giants Real Madrid.
While his outrageous skill and his ability to unlock defences would be welcomed by Villas-Boas, it is highly unlikely that Chelsea are going to pay anywhere near the £40m asking price for a 19-year-old who has only played in the Brazilian league.
If Santos lower their demands, then there is every chance that the Blues will make a concerted move for the latest superstar to emerge from South America.
Chelsea have also spent the first part of the summer pursuing Modric, who Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is adamant will not be sold despite the Croatian publicly expressing his desire to cross London - a move which could see his wages almost triple to £130,000-a-week.
|SHOPPING LIST | Chelsea targets|
|Gregory Van der Wiel
The question is, how much would it now take for Tottenham to sell? The feeling is that Chelsea will not pay the kind of whopping transfer fee – in the region of £50m – that would cause Levy to consider selling Tottenham's most important player.
Villas-Boas will also be in the market for a right-back, with Jose Bosingwa likely to leave this summer, and Ajax's Gregory Van der Wiel is a long-term target.
The Dutch international is considered one of the best full-backs in the world and it may not be long before Chelsea make a £15m bid to fight Manchester City for his signature.
While much of the scouting system at Stamford Bridge has been left with big voids following Frank Arnesen's end of season departure for Hamburg, Chelsea will continue to pursue young talented players that had already been earmarked, including Genk duo Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne.
The issue Villas-Boas will want to address most quickly is the need for a playmaker, someone to pull the strings in midfield, to control possession and unlock defences with quality forward passes.
While many see Modric as the ideal man to bring the best out of £50m Fernando Torres, Chelsea will be looking at other options in the event that Tottenham's resolve holds.
Villas-Boas will be seeking a quick resolution and it would be no surprise if the club launched a £30m-plus bid for Inter Milan star Wesley Sneijder, who could fit in perfectly as the creative force in the Portuguese's preferred 4-3-3 system.
At 33, Frank Lampard is the same age as his new manager and Chelsea face a tough task in replacing his regular goals from midfield. In Sneijder, they would have a man who has a far more impressive scoring record than Modric and can also deliver deadly set-pieces.
To finance a deal for a playmaker, Chelsea are believed to be ready to cash in on Michael Essien, who has struggled for the last two seasons with knee injury problems.
The other option that has emerged following Villas-Boas became front-runner for the Chelsea job is Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho, although at €40m (£35.7m) he is vastly overpriced. Should that fee drop to nearer the £20-25m mark, then Villas-Boas could be tempted to raid his former club.
One player he seems more likely to take with him from Porto is star striker Radamel Falcao. The Colombian has hit 75 goals in 83 matches during his two years at the Estadio do Dragao and has also been strongly linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.
Falcao, 25, has recently appointed superagent Jorge Mendes to represent him, suggesting the former River Plate man sees himself moving to one of the big European clubs this summer.
Indeed, Real Madrid have also been strongly linked with the predatory finisher, where he would join Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two star names on Mendes' books.
Nevertheless, Chelsea are favourites for his signature and would have no problem paying the €30m (£26.7m) buyout clause in his Porto contract.
His Porto striker partner, Hulk, could also be a target but the Brazilian's release clause is set at €100m (£89m) and it is unlikely the Portuguese club would let Chelsea or anyone else completely dismantle such a successful team.
Villas-Boas needs to be tough and decisive in the transfer market – and he will be.
His transfer market activity this summer could determine whether Abramovich is finally delivered his dream of conquering Europe.