LONDON // Andre Villas-Boas, the new Chelsea manager, has taken a hands-on role in the overhaul of the club, personally calling Alexis Sanchez to sell the Chile international on the merits of joining him at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea hope that the intervention of Villas-Boas will help persuade Sanchez to choose them over Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Roman Abramovich has supported the move with a financial package to Udinese that matches City's offer of £31.2 million (Dh182.8m) plus £8.9m in conditional bonuses and exceeds Barcelona's bid of £25m plus players.
Though Sanchez's preference has been to move to the Camp Nou, Udinese have pushed their asking price to £44.5m, a figure the Champions League winners are unlikely to meet.
The Russian owner's efforts to restructure his dysfunctional team were underlined yesterday when three key staff left the club.
Bryan English, the medical director; Paul Clement, the assistant first-team coach; and Glenn Driscoll, the fitness coach, all left Chelsea after meetings with Ron Gourlay, the chief executive.
English was thought to have not been helpful in the prompt return to action of Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard.
Driscoll drew Carlo Ancelotti's ire last season by questioning the players' workload as the manager engaged in extra tactical work. Clement was regarded as surplus to requirements under Villas-Boas.
The new manager's input in transfers contrasts with Ancelotti, who took no direct role in the high-profile January purchases of Fernando Torres and David Luiz. Chelsea are attempting to restructure their attack around Torres, the Spain international, and are working on recruiting a second attacker comfortable on either wing, as well as adding Luka Modric as a midfield playmaker.
Falcao, the leading scorer for Villas-Boas at FC Porto, is another potential recruit, though Chelsea will not trigger the striker's £26.7m buyout clause until they are confident of off-loading Nicolas Anelka.
The club have also been canvassing for buyers for Florent Malouda, who has been offered to AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma.
Chelsea have already invested £13.3m in exercising the release clause in Villas-Boas's contract at Porto, the second-highest fee paid for a manager after the £17.8m Real Madrid paid Inter for Jose Mourinho last summer.
Though Abramovich is accustomed to paying such sums to dispense with Chelsea managers, he was reluctant to pay such a high price to recruit one and attempted to negotiate down the buyout clause.
When Porto refused to compromise, Villas-Boas offered to accept lower wages at Chelsea than had been discussed. Instead of receiving the same £3m net salary as Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, 33, agreed a three-year contract worth £2m per annum after tax, which still represented a doubling of his income at Porto.
Villas-Boas has been accompanied to London by Jose Mario Rocha and Daniel Sousa, his physical trainer and tactical scout at Porto. He failed, however, to convince Vitor Pereira to follow him and is looking for an assistant to lead day-to-day training.
Guus Hiddink, Abramovich's top candidate for manager, is now unlikely to take any formal role in Chelsea's new structure. The Dutchman strained his relationship with the owner by imposing a series of conditions on his employment, including the return of Ray Wilkins as an assistant.