Chelsea appears to be playing hardball with Atletico Madrid over the on-off deal for the transfer of left-back Filipe Luis.
The club have been in talks with Atletico for months now over the defender, who has a release clause in his contract set at around £19 million. The Spanish club are refusing to do business unless the release clause is met, while Chelsea value the Brazilian at around £15 million (although some reports suggest they are not willing to pay more than £10 million)
The player himself has become increasingly frustrated with the delay, first urging his club to lower their asking price and then refusing to speak to them about a new contract, in a bid to force the move through. There are suggestions that he might be even be prepared to use his own money to buy out his own release clause, effectively making up the difference between what Chelsea are bidding and what Atletico will accept.
Now Chelsea is letting Atletico know they have alternatives to Luis. They have opened talks with Sporting Lisbon over a possible deal for their Argentinian left-back Marcos Rojo. Rojo has been one of Argentina’s star performers at the World Cup and is likely to leave Sporting this summer, with other clubs including Liverpool, Juventus and Barcelona also interested.
Rojo is a strong, physically dominating, versatile defender, comfortable on the ball and adept at spotting a threat and snuffing it out. He can play in the centre too, so would give Chelsea much-needed cover in that position.
He’s 24, which makes him a better prospect than the 28 year-old Brazilian – there’s a greater chance that he will improve, and he will have a sell-on value at the end of his contract (which Luis, who will be in his 30s by then, won’t – or not to the same extent). In short, Rojo is an asset who can appreciate in value – Luis is only likely to depreciate.
Liverpool, who have been tracking the defender for some time, have reportedly prepared a £12 million bid for him – which presumably they may now make public after the collapse of their efforts to sign Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno. But Chelsea, its though, would be prepared to pay up to £15 million for his service – which is of course what they are reported to be bidding for Filipe Luis.
Whether the Blues are serious about pursuing Rojo will become clear over the next few weeks. Even if they are not, the news sends out a message to Atletico Madrid that the club will not be budged from their position over Luis and that they are quite prepared to look elsewhere. The Spanish side must now decide whether it is worth forgoing a few million pounds to retain the services of an unhappy player who has seen his employers block a transfer that he desperately wants, or whether to accept the money and move on.