Chelsea to get close-up view of Paulinho
Chelsea will assess the Brazil midfielder Paulinho first-hand when he plays for Corinthians in their Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Al Ahly today after seeing Oriol Romeu ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Paulinho was a key member of the Corinthians side that claimed the Brazilian league title in 2011 and the Copa Libertadores for the first time last season, earning international recognition with the Selecao en route.
The 24-year-old has previously played in Europe, with FC Vilnius in Lithuania and the Polish club Lodzki, with his recent performances having attracted scouts from the likes of Internazionale, Milan, Paris St-Germain and Manchester City.
Inter, who had made concerted efforts to secure the player last summer, were under the impression a buyout clause in the Brazilian’s contract drops his valuation after the tournament in Japan to around £12 million. Yet, while Paulinho himself has said he would be willing to remain at Corinthians for another season, there will be fierce competition for his signature with the European champions expected to enter the fray.
Chelsea have been monitoring his progress regularly, having come close to bidding for his services last summer, and could yet confront him in Sunday’s Club World Cup final in Yokohama if they and Corinthians progress through their semi-final fixtures.
While the manager Rafael Benitez is only contracted until the summer, he has spoken to the technical director Michael Emenalo and the board about their plans in January, with the European champions seeking to add further depth to their squad.
There has been interest in Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote in the past with Romeu’s loss representing a blow given numbers are relatively short in central midfield, with the Spaniard having undergone surgery on the knee he twisted during Saturday’s Premier League victory at Sunderland.
The 21-year-old, who has made 33 first-team appearances since signing from Barcelona in the summer of 2011, underwent an operation on Monday to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament and repair the medial meniscus in the joint. His rehabilitation will extend to six months, with Benitez having identified the need for a ball-winning midfielder to add to his options. The Spaniard has used the attack-minded Oscar more sparingly in recent matches as he has sought a more natural blend of attack and defence in his line-up.