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Friday, December 23, 2005

Chelsea to sign up Maniche

Chelsea FC is serious about signing Maniche next week. The Portuguese midfielder is expected in London for talks about a short-term contract on Thursday and a deal will be announced when the transfer window opens on January 1.

Coach José Mourinho insisted that he would not delve into the transfer market next month, but has chosen to reinforce his midfield before the African Cup of Nations. Chelsea will lose Michael Essien, Gérémi and Didier Drogba for up to six matches in the new year, leaving Mourinho short of alternatives in midfield. Just as he did last year when signing Jiri Jarosik from Locomotiv Moscow, Mourinho has opted to go for an unheralded squad player who will not rock the boat.

We must remember that Mourinho and Maniche go back a long way. The Chelsea manager is convinced that he can fill in for Essien as a strong central midfield player who can also pass the ball. The 27-year-old played under Mourinho at Benfica and Porto, playing a crucial role in the Porto team that won the Champions League in 2004 before making the surprise pass to Dynamo at the end of last season.

Mourinho had previously said that he would not call any more Portuguese players. However, Maniche is expected to his just signing of the transfer window. His arrival should minimise the disruption caused by the Cup of Nations and Drogba believes that Chelsea could even benefit from the tournament, in which he will represent Ivory Coast.

“I want to play important matches and enjoy myself and will be doing that with the national team,” Drogba said. “When I’m with Chelsea I give 120 per cent for the club and it’s the same with the national team.

“I’ll give everything and I might even become a better player. I will learn a lot of things as it’s my first African Cup of Nations. I want to come back with the trophy, which will give me more confidence for the rest of the season. That is going to help Chelsea.”

Chelsea were so concerned by Essien’s potential absence that they offered to fly the Ghanaian back and forth on a private jet. “It’s very hard for Chelsea because Essien won’t be available to them for several matches,” Ratomir Dujkovic, the Ghana coach, said. “I understand their problem as Essien is important to them, but he is also very important to Ghana. Essien is confused because he likes playing for Ghana, but he is worried about losing his place in the Chelsea first team.”