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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

Manchester City doggedly pursuing Chelsea's John Terry

Manchester has offered England's top defender $330,000 a week, but Terry has not stated a decision. Chelsea has rebuffed offers.

July 21, 2009|GRAHAME L. JONES

Tampering apparently is perfectly acceptable in England.

Either that or the English have decidedly different rules about how and when soccer players under contract to one team can be approached by another team and asked to jump ship.

John Terry is a good case in point.

The captain of England's national side and of Chelsea in the English Premier League will be playing for the Blues against Inter Milan in a friendly international at 8 tonight at the Rose Bowl.

It is not too much of a stretch to say it might be one of his last games for Chelsea. Whether it will be, depends on who you believe.

Manchester City, flaunting the seemingly unlimited wealth of its oil-rich Middle Eastern owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, has spent weeks trying to lure Terry out of London and north to the scenic wonders of Manchester.

It offered Chelsea $50 million for Terry, only to be rebuffed, and now is reported to be preparing a $66-millon bid.

It has offered Terry himself a staggering salary of $330,000 a week.

It has said he could pretty much write his own ticket.

It has suggested that after 14 years at Chelsea, Terry, who joined the Stamford Bridge club as a 14-year-old, might like to sample something different.

And all along Terry has said little to nothing. Even now, less than a month before the Premier League's 2009-10 season begins, England's top defender has not stated unequivocally which shade of blue he will be wearing in the upcoming season.

Other people, of course, have said much.

"I don't know what he will do," Chelsea and England teammate Frank Lampard told reporters after Chelsea had beaten Major League Soccer's Sounders, 2-0, in front of 65,289 in Seattle on Saturday night. "This is not just about the money, and people shouldn't try to make it that black and white."

Mark Hughes, the former Manchester United and Wales player who is Manchester City's manager, has been relentless in his pursuit of Terry, but he has had to choose his words carefully.

"He's obviously the type and caliber of player we need if we are going to progress and compete at the top level," Hughes told the BBC on Sunday.

Manchester City has already landed four prizes this off-season in forwards Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz and midfielder Gareth Barry. But Terry would be the big prize.

As a result, Manchester City players have been enlisted in the cause.

"You can have the best attacking players in the world, but unless the defense complements it, then you will not win anything," Brazilian forward Robinho told the Sunday Mirror. "I don't know anything about the John Terry deal apart from what I have read, but he is the sort of world-class player we need at the back."

Goalkeeper Shay Given echoed the thought.

"He is 'Mr. Chelsea,' so it would be amazing if we got him, and I hope that we do," Given said. "Sometimes a change is good for a player."

For its part, Chelsea has steadfastly said that Terry, 28, is not for sale.

The defender still has three years left on his contract, which pays him $223,000 a week.

"I am sure he will remain at Chelsea," Chelsea's new manager, former AC Milan mentor Carlo Ancelotti, said Saturday. "I am sure 100%."

Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive, has dismissed Manchester City's approaches.

"John is a talisman," he told Britain's Sky Sports News last week. "He is the heart of Chelsea. . . . We are not going to sell John, so it is irrelevant what another club will offer. We are very confident he will be leading us in the years to come."

All the same, Chelsea has not filed a complaint with the Premier League about the way Manchester City has been nibbling around the edges. Under league rules, clubs are not allowed to express interest in a player under contract to another club without obtaining prior written permission from that club.

So the Terry saga goes on while the man himself remains silent.

Chelsea's owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, flies in to join the team today.

Stay tuned. As Chelsea and Germany national team midfielder Michael Ballack told Sky Sports News: "It's football, anything can happen."

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

--

Chelsea vs.Inter Milan

Where: Rose Bowl.

When: 8 tonight.

TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes

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