Premier League - Paper Round: Lampard out, Benitez in at Chelsea

Thu, 23 Feb 08:48:00 2012

Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea! That's not an unimaginative chant at Stamford Bridge, but a reflection of the only story in town in Thursday's back pages.

Daily Mirror 23 Feb 2012 - 0

The Daily Mirror leads with a story claiming that former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti will offer Frank Lampard the chance to join him at PSG this summer to give him "a way out of his Chelsea nightmare under Andre-Villas Boas".

But the Daily Mail disagrees, reporting that Lampard "will resist Andre Villas-Boas's attempts to force him out of the club because of a £1.5 million loyalty bonus in his contract". That bonus is due at the end of Lampard's current contract, in June 2013.

The Sun focuses on another of Chelsea's senior players, Ashley Cole, who will apparently be offloaded in the summer after infuriating no less than Roman Abramovich for having clashed with AVB. "In the past, the senior players have sometimes got their way over an unpopular manager. But this time Mr Abramovich is fed up with their moaning," the paper's mole at Stamford Bridge reports.

The Daily Star has a plea from Branislav Ivanovic telling his team-mates to "forget your gripes and put the club first", while the Daily Express claims that AVB has already decided that Cole, Lampard and Michael Essien must be ditched in the summer.

Yet it's very doubtful that he will get the chance to axe those players. The Racing Post's back page story is all about how the bookies are becoming increasingly convinced that Andre Villas-Boas will be shown the door at Stamford Bridge, with odds being cut to as little as 11-8 that the Portuguese manager will not be in the dugout by the time Napoli travel to London for the second leg of the Champions League tie.

Who will the replacement be? The Times claims that Rafa Benitez is the man, reporting that the Spaniard has already been approached by Chelsea representatives to see whether he would be interested in taking over from Villas-Boas.

Frank Lampard's exit strategy, Frank Spencer's overcoat and Rafael Benitez taking over at Chelsea occupy today's papers. - 2 Only the Independent and Daily Telegraph offer different back page leads, both focusing on Stuart Pearce's intention to blood a number of young stars in England's forthcoming friendly with Holland.

No doubt Pearce's strategy was originally cooked up to avoid any controversy about leaving out John Terry, something which has since been rendered pointless by Terry's knee injury.

But Pearce's decision to put faith in youth is something which "alarms some of the senior players", according to the Telegraph, probably not least the six - reportedly Jermain Defoe, Jolen Lescott, Michael Dawson, Bobby Zamora, Phil Jagielka and Peter Crouch - who have been left out.

The Sun's story booms that one of those players is very angry indeed: "Lescott fury at Pearce axe" blasts the headline, which doesn't really fit with the Manchester City's star's quotes: "It's a strange one," he said. "It's a chance for other players to prove what good players they are." Oh yes, white hot lividness pouring out there - somebody fetch a fire extinguisher.

In today's transfer gossip Andrei Arshavin will decide today whether to go on loan to Zenit St Petersburg until the summer in order to boost his hopes of a Euro 2012 spot (Daily Mail), Al Ain are trying to persuade Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan to stay for good (Daily Mirror), while Juventus have offered unsettled Manchester United youngster Paul Pogba a four-year deal (Daily Mail).

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger could have even more to spend in the summer than the £50 million reported at the weekend: the Telegraph's sources at The Emirates claim the figure is nearer double that sum. But why do we get the feeling that offering Wenger millions to spend in the transfer market is like giving a teetotaller a dozen cases of vintage claret?

And finally, back to the Daily Telegraph's take on the Chelsea situation, where our own Jim White decides that Villas-Boas's problem is a simple one: it's all about his overcoat. Where Jose Mourinho impressed with his sharp attire, the current Chelsea boss's choice of coat during the defeat at Napoli had the opposite effect: "Andre Villas-Boas gave an altogether different impression. In his mac with the belt tightened up under his ribs, he echoed a significantly less impressive style icon. He looked like the Frank Spencer of football."


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