Chelsea are favourites to sign Newcastle United striker Demba Ba, according to the Telegraph. The 27-year-old Senegalese international was quoted as expressing interest in both Arsenal and Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain (PSG) but after Arsene Wenger distanced himself from the player, it appears the Blues will win the race for his signature.
Ba has a release clause in his contract at St James' Park, believed to be £7m, and his return of 13 goals in 20 Premier League appearances this season makes him a hot property.
The Blues are desperately short of senior strikers, with the expected departure, according to the Liverpool Echo, of 23-year-old England international Daniel Sturridge (to Liverpool for £12m) leaving only Spanish international Fernando Torres up front. Although the former Reds target man is on an excellent run of form (seven goals in the last seven games), interim manager Rafael Benitez and the club will know cover is needed.
The European champions were linked with Colombian international Radamel Falcao and a £48m fee for Atletico Madrid and £200,000 per week in wages for Falcao were touted. However, the deal appears to have hit a dead-end after the South American confirmed he would not leave the Vicente Calderon this season.
The Blues have also been linked with 31-year-old Barcelona and Spain star David Villa. However, the £16m price quoted by the Catalans (to Arsenal, who were also interested), coupled with injury concerns (Villa suffered a broken leg in a FIFA Club World Cup match last December) and worry over the length of time Villa might take to adapt to the Premier League seem to point to Ba being the better option.
Incidentally, a Daily Mail report suggests the £7m fee believed to be Ba's release clause could end up as something in excess of £10.5m; since a sum of £2.5m is contractually due to Ba. The report also says the African is likely to ask for £70,000 per week in wages.
Realistically, neither transfer fee nor wages will be a deterrent for Roman Abramovich if indeed, he does want Ba. In fact, should the transfer go through and Ba continues to score freely, it could be one of the west London club's shrewdest deals.