06 January 2008

Wayne Bridge offered escape route to Anfield in £6m switch

Matt Hughes

Wayne Bridge’s unhappy 3½year spell at Chelsea could end with a £6 million move to Liverpool, one of their main rivals for the Barclays Premier League title.
The left back, 27, whose appearances at Stamford Bridge have been limited since the arrival of Ashley Cole from Arsenal, has already turned down the chance to switch to three top-flight rivals, but he may view the chance of resurrecting his career at Anfield more positively. He is one of the leading targets for Rafael BenÍtez, the Liverpool manager, after a failed attempt to sign Gabriel Heinze, the former Manchester United defender.
Bridge’s prospects at Chelsea dipped almost as soon as the transfer window opened on Tuesday, when the club lined up a deal for Branislav Ivanovic, of Lokomotiv Moscow. The Serbia defender is expected to complete a £10 million move in the next few days.
Chelsea have agreed a fee with Lokomotiv but need to finalise the terms of a four-year contract with Ivanovic, who has also attracted interest from Manchester United and Juventus. The 23-year-old can operate anywhere along the back four, but despite playing regularly on the right claims to be most comfortable at left back.
Ivanovic is valued for his versatility and is likely to make his initial impact at centre back, where Chelsea have seemed vulnerable since John Terry was ruled out for several months with a fractured foot. Although relatively young, Ivanovic is not inexperienced, with nine full caps and the kudos that followed from being named in the team of the tournament at last year’s European Under21 Championship, where Serbia reached the final.
Roman Abramovich’s willingness to offer such significant backing to Avram Grant so early in the transfer window in contrast to his refusal to buy a single player for José Mourinho 12 months ago indicates his faith in his first-team coach and his determination to keep Chelsea in the title race.
Grant is likely to make several more new signings before the end of the month, with Nicolas Anelka expected to complete a £10 million move from Bolton Wanderers next week, and Ivanovic could also be reunited with his Lokomotiv teammate, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a versatile attacking midfield player with 19 caps for Russia.
Grant also wants to keep Bridge at the club but may not be able to do so, with Liverpool ready to offer him an attractive alternative and prepared to pay £6 million despite the internal wrangling over their transfer budget.
Bridge was badly affected by Chelsea’s controversial signing of Cole 18 months ago and will not take kindly to the impending signing of another rival. He was already disillusioned at what he perceived as the preferential treatment afforded Cole, with the former Arsenal defender generally selected for Chelsea’s most important matches.
Bridge rejected overtures from Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Fulham before signing a new contract at Chelsea last season, but he would view an approach from Liverpool quite differently.

utusanLFC :
Bridge is a second-rate player - especially evident in his miserable performances for England - so I can't see what Liverpool would see in him.. asuming this rumour has any truth to it. First priority for Liverpool should be securing Macherano. And secondly Liverpool need a new Centre Half, to replace the aging and slowing down if still impressive in the air Hyppia.

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