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Scolari calls for £6m raid to bring Zaki to Chelsea

Luiz Felipe Scolari is urging Chelsea to make a £6m January transfer window bid for Amr Zaki having been deeply impressed by the Egyptian striker's powerful performances for Wigan Athletic this season. As they attempt to bolster their squad, having finally accepted that Scolari's resources are unreasonably stretched, Chelsea have also agreed a £4m deal to sign the promising striker Orlando Sa although his club, Braga, are still hoping to hold on to the Portuguese under-21 international until the end of the season.

Chelsea, having taken Sa on a week-long trial on Scolari's recommendation, rather than that of under-pressure chief scout Frank Arnesen, want to sign the 20-year-old immediately but have indicated they may be prepared to wait. Last month Sa scored a hat-trick for Portugal in an under-21 match against Spain but has not featured for the Braga first team on a regular basis this season. While Sa is regarded as a player for the future, Scolari wants Zaki to add to his first-team squad straight away although Wigan are confident that, under the terms of their season-long loan agreement for the 25-year-old, they can see off any bid.

Although Scolari accepts that Roman Abramovich does not want to spend heavily, especially in next month's window, having spent £15m on Nicolas Anelka last January and a further £9m on Branislav Ivanovic – with both players having arguable influence – he has successfully appealed that the acquisition of a "middle-ranking" striker such as Zaki is vital.

Abramovich's links with the Russian club CSKA Moscow have already led to a discussion as to whether Wagner Love can be acquired, on a six-month loan initially, and although Scolari admires his fellow Brazilian he is understood to prefer a move for Zaki because he has already played in the Premier League, scored nine goals, and would fit straightinto his first-team plans. Chelsea are also aware that although Wigan would appear to be in pole position to sign the on-loan 25-year-old, his club Zamalek will listen to higher offers and the Latics may be powerless to stop their top-scorer from leaving because they do not have a binding, fixed-price option on the striker. They had hoped to pair him with countryman Mido, especially if Emile Heskey leaves for Aston Villa next month.

Chelsea are examining other options but Zaki is understood to be Scolari's preferred choice. The Chelsea manager remains highly popular with the club's hierarchy, despite faltering form, partly because he has accepted the state of affairs he has inherited and also because he is willing to cope with the situation and work with executives in a way that his predecessor but one, Jose Mourinho, found impossible. It is also true that Chelsea are sympathetic to Scolari's plight after failing to sign Robinho. Neither the manager nor chief executive Peter Kenyon were blamed for the collapse of the deal – agents carried the can – but its effect is still being felt at the club with Scolari even venturing to suggest that a renewed offer for the Brazilian, possibly next summer, might succeed.

Scolari is aware that he may have to sell to help finance any deal he wants to take place next month. He has already recommended a move for the Fluminense central defender Thiago Silva, who is available on a free transfer after running down his contract although he has also attracted interest from both Milan clubs and Villarreal.

This could lead to Alex's departure for Panathinaikos, after the Greek club, now coached by Chelsea's former assistant manager Henk Ten Cate, inquired about the Brazilian while Ivanovic's future also remains in doubt. Chelsea are expecting a bid from Manchester City for Wayne Bridge but would prefer not to sell the popular left-back, while Florent Malouda's future at the club is in some doubt after a faltering run of form having initially appeared to respond well to Scolari's arrival. A sense of self-criticism has enveloped Chelsea of late and Michael Ballack has become the latest player to admit that things have not been quite right. The German midfielder, in the wake of Tuesday's unconvincing Champions League victory over the Romanians of CFR Cluj, said that Chelsea were guilty of underestimating their Group A opponents – Bordeaux and Roma made up the group – and that was why they had to wait until the final tie to secure qualification to the last 16.

"At the beginning we thought the group should be easier but it wasn't," Ballack said. "In the end with 11 and 12 points for us and Roma, it looks OK for both teams. [But] if you want to get to the final you have to improve your game, everyone knows this and we know this. Compared to the last two seasons, when we were in the semi-final and the final, we know we have to improve but we can do this."

Midfielder Frank Lampard, who was suspended against Cluj, admitted yesterday that he had underestimated the rivalry between Chelsea and his former club West Ham – who he faces on Sunday – when he made his £11m move across London. However in declaring that he felt "very strongly as a Chelsea person and it's overtaken my life" Lampard has probably done little to defuse the tension between him and West Ham supporters.
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