• Striker bought for £50m in 2011 will cost Milan nothing
• José Mourinho may move for Loïc Rémy of QPR
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Fernando Torres is to have a medical at Milan on Saturday after agreement was reached between the Italian club, Chelsea and the player’s representatives to smooth what is, in effect, a free transfer.
The Spain striker, who cost a British record £50m when he signed from Liverpool in January 2011, will leave England after seven seasons in the Premier League and sign a two-year deal at San Siro after agreeing a compromise over his wage demands. He was initially reluctant to lower his £175,000-a-week salary.
Chelsea had been pushing the 30-year-old to make a decision to ensure they had enough time to secure a replacement before Monday’s transfer deadline and moves are being explored for the Queens Park Rangers striker Loïc Rémy and Roma’s forward Mattia Destro.
The latter would cost at least £20m, with the Italian club instinctively resistant to losing a key player so close to the cut-off. Rémy, in contrast, has a buyout clause in his contract set at £8.5m for clubs who finished in the top four last season and is therefore a far simpler option to pursue.
Another target, Monaco’s Radamel Falcao, is expected to join Real Madrid on loan for the year. Chelsea are intent on ending the window with three senior forwards and, having sanctioned Torres’s departure, have no option but to re-enter the market.
There is no fee involved in the Torres deal and Chelsea describe it as a two-year loan for a player who struggled to justify the record fee that had prised him from Anfield. However, they will take some comfort from saving upwards of £15m in wages over the two years that were remaining on his contract. It is understood he will depart without a pay-off to replace Mario Balotelli at San Siro.
There was an admission from José Mourinho that, while Torres has not been unhappy over his three and a half seasons at Chelsea – he played his part in winning the Champions League and Europa League in that time – a fresh start may suit a player who would have been third choice at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t think a sad person can work the way he does, can be as professional as he is,” Mourinho said. “He works so hard, is so professional, is so stable in his personal life. I don’t see a sad man. But when I speak about happiness, I mean football happiness. Football feeling: more self-confidence, not the need to feel under pressure, not to feel he has to deliver and that all eyes are on him because of a big transfer fee. All these kind of things.
“Probably the move would create for him a different start. If he wants to leave, it would be because he wants to try a new life. A new club. Probably a new league. To try to be happier than he was in the last couple of years. Chelsea is a very human club in the way the club approaches this kind of situation. Any possibility would be analysed by us as a club and the best decision for him. But I don’t think his time here has been sad. He won a few things, scored a few important goals. So I don’t look at this history as being negative.”
Yet Torres’s career in south-west London rarely hit the personal heights of his time at Liverpool, most notably under Rafael Benítez. Prolific on Merseyside, scoring 65 league goals in 102 appearances, he had arrived at Chelsea feeling the effects of previous knee problems and struggled to adapt to the style of play adopted by successive managers.
Arguably the highlight of his time at the club was a dramatic, injury-time equaliser in the Champions League semi-final at Barcelona in 2012 – he was a late substitute in the final – though he did score the opener in the Europa League final against Benfica the following year.
Chelsea will move swiftly to secure a replacement and, by bringing in another non-homegrown player, will still have to trim one foreigner from their roster. They have 18 in their squad, with 17 permitted under Premier League rules. Marco van Ginkel or Mohamed Salah are the most likely to go on loan.
Mourinho said: “We thought the market was closed for us but, if Nando opened that market, we would have to go into it again. We would try to make the best possible deal.
“We’ll react by buying a foreign striker because I don’t see an English striker in the market that would come to us, or where his club would let him. If we lose a foreign striker, we need another foreign striker.”
Destro will remain a long-term target regardless of events over the next 72 hours. Of the Italy international, a youth-team player at Internazionale when Mourinho won the 2010 European Cup, the manager said: “Mattia was a kid when I was at Inter and was playing in our under-21s, training with us so many times. Everyone knew his potential was there to be a top striker. He was unlucky because we had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano, then Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito. He didn’t have a chance because we were full of top strikers.”
Torres, who scored only 20 goals in 110 Premier League appearances for Chelsea, has not featured this season and has lost his place in the Spain squad for their games against France and Macedonia next month. He would not have started at Everton on Saturday – when Chelsea will confront their former forwards Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o – despite doubts still surrounding Diego Costa’s ability to begin the game after suffering a slight hamstring injury in training.
The Brazil-born striker completed a light training session on Friday and travelled to Merseyside with the squad. Drogba will step in if Costa is deemed not fit enough to start.