Benitez plotting January splurge at Blues
Sturridge exit set to hand Rafa key to war chest with Falcao top of boss's hitlist
RAFA Benitez will be given a treasure trove to spend in January by Chelsea, but the catalyst for the spree will be the selling of striker Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool for £12m.
With Sturridge the only cover for striker Fernando Torres at the moment, the move would see the London club splash the cash on a replacement or even two.
The Spaniard confirmed last night he will discuss transfer targets with the club's hierarchy later this week and a move for Atletico Madrid's coveted goalscorer Radamel Falcao is looking an increasingly likely prospect.
Chelsea would probably have to trigger Falcao's £48m release clause to have any chance of landing the South American and the funds from any Sturridge sale would be useful.
It is understood that Sturridge could leave for Anfield in the early stages of the January transfer window with the deal likely to be wrapped up by the end of the second week of the month.
Benitez has not used Sturridge once since his arrival. At his press conference yesterday, the Spaniard admitted there were "conversations with different options" for Sturridge's future.
The player's chosen destination is Anfield.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, is keen to add to his flimsy striking resources and Sturridge would fit into the youth structure that Fenway are trying to bring in at Anfield.
Luis Suarez is the club's only fit senior centre-forward after Andy Carroll was loaned to West Ham United but not replaced, to Rodgers' frustration, and summer signing Fabio Borini sidelined with a broken foot.
Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling have been deputising in attacking roles but Rodgers knows he needs further quality in the final third to make a sustained assault on the top half of the table.
Rodgers also hopes to sign Blackpool's 20-year-old winger Tom Ince in January, 16 months after Liverpool sold him to the Championship club and a £4m loss to the Anfield club.
If Sturridge goes, Chelsea will be compelled to buy new strikers. They are almost as limited in their options as Liverpool, with only one fit senior forward, Torres, who is not anywhere near the form of Suarez.
Beyond the Spaniard, they only have Victor Moses, signed in the summer from Wigan Athletic, but he has mainly been used on the wing.
Benitez confirmed yesterday that after tonight's game with Leeds United in the League Cup, but before the opening of the transfer window, he would have time to discuss transfer targets with the club hierarchy.
"We have time before January," Benitez said when asked when he would be planning the club's strategy for new signings.
"We have just arrived home (from Japan) yesterday and then (we have) another game.
"Hopefully we have two or three days after this game, and then we have plenty of time. We are still working, the people in charge are working, and we will talk about names."
Chelsea may well pursue Falcao, the third top-scorer in La Liga with 14 goals already this season behind Messi and Ronaldo.
Benitez may also decide to recruit in central midfield. Chelsea's options are limited there too, with Oriol Romeu injured, John Obi Mikel suspended and Frank Lampard only just back from injury.
Meanwhile, Chelsea's players and staff have been warned to be more careful after an instruction sheet explaining tactics was found by journalists from the Brazilian website Globoesporte following the Club World Cup final.
Benitez's side were beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in Yokohama on Sunday, but after the team had left the stadium journalists found a crumpled piece of paper among litter in a bin.
The sheet detailed which Corinthians players should be marked at corners and said in large red capital letters to "be aware of counter attack" while pushing forward and to "immediately (push) up after we clear first ball" when defending set pieces.
The instructions are understood to have been left in the changing room by a member of staff, although the details were match specific and the club are not overly concerned as the revelations will not jeopardise any future games.