Roman Abramovich is prepared to make Ronaldinho the Premier League’s first £200,000-a-week player in a bid to lure him from Barcelona to Chelsea.
As Sportsmail revealed on Monday, Chelsea’s Russian owner has already held two meetings with the Brazilian’s brother, Roberto de Assis Moreira, after he approached the club.
Encouraged by those meetings, Abramovich is now ready to authorise a deal worth a staggering £100million for a player who would add flair to an already formidable Chelsea team.
Half that money would go to Ronaldinho in wages over the next five years and the other half would go directly to Barcelona as a British record £50m transfer fee for the 27-year-old double World Player of the Year.
Ronaldinho has an £85m buy-out clause in his contract but the full amount applies only to Spanish clubs and is essentially designed to prevent him from ever following Luis Figo to Real Madrid.
Barcelona’s sporting director, Txiki Beguiristain, told Sportsmail on Monday that Ronaldinho was not for sale. ‘Any big European club would want Ronaldinho but he is ours and there is no chance of him leaving,’ he said.
‘Honestly, not even Chelsea have the kind of money that can match the value we put on Ronaldinho. He is the symbol of the club and it is therefore impossible to sell him.
‘It would be sporting suicide to do it now. To help a big Champions League rival like Chelsea would be total madness. If the agent has travelled to London that is not important to me.’
There is, however, another director at Barca who has given members of the Spanish media a very different briefing, insisting that one of the ‘big four’ will leave before the transfer window closes at midnight on Friday for a fee of around ’70 million euros’.
Given that Lionel Messi is the darling of the fans, Samuel Eto’o is close to club president Joan Laporta and Thierry Henry has only just arrived from Arsenal, Ronaldinho’s departure appears most likely.
Barcelona might be reluctant sellers but they have been just as reluctant to offer Ronaldinho a new deal and a two-year extension to a contract that already runs until 2010, not least because of his disappointing form last season.
They are also desperate to raise the £25m needed to buy Dani Alves from Sevilla, which is proving difficult as they have debts of £180m.
Abramovich, who became so disillusioned with Chelsea at one stage last season that he stopped going to games, sees Ronaldinho as the player who can inject what he considers to be some muchneeded excitement into Jose Mourinho’s side.
Although chief executive Peter Kenyon has said it was planned to make Chelsea a self-sufficient business within five years, Champions League success and entertainment now seem to be the priorities of the Russian billionaire.