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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 12:17 GMT
Parker takes Chelsea gamble
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Scott Parker

Scott Parker is the latest multi-million pound acquistion to join Chelsea as Claudio Ranieiri assembles what now resembles a commune rather than a squad of footballers.

The 23-year-old England midfield man has sacrificed regular first-team football at Charlton for the riches and potential silverware - and perhaps the odd game here and there - on offer at Stamford Bridge.

If Parker wants to showcase his talents to ensure his place at Euro 2004, he has chosen arguably the most difficult stage on which to display them.

He is behind Frank Lampard and Joe Cole for England - and he now has to fight his way past them for his new club Chelsea.

Parker must also fight for his Chelsea place with Claude Makalele, Emmanuel Petit, Geremi and, when fit, Juan Sebastian Veron.

But Mark Bright, the former Charlton striker and one-time team-mate of Parker, understands why he has made the move.

He told BBC Sport: "He understands, going from a team where he's going to play every week to a team where he might play once every three or four weeks, that there could be a problem for him because he wants to go to Euro 2004.

"But he's taken his chance and he's going to better himself in a better footballing environment where he will learn more and he will be a better player - and that's no disrespect to anyone at Charlton."

THIS SEASON'S BUYS
Glen Johnson: 6m
Wayne Bridge: 7m
Damien Duff: 17m
Geremi: 7m
Juan Sebastian Veron: 15m
Joe Cole: 6.6m
Adrian Mutu: 15.8m
Alexei Smertin: 3.45m
Hernan Crespo: 16.8m
Neil Sullivan: 500,000
Claude Makelele: 16m
Scott Parker: 10m
Total to date: 121.15m

Parker will be banking on his reserves of self-confidence and undoubted ability to fulfil those words - but Ranieri's latest transfer message suggests life may get harder before it gets easier when it comes to nailing down a first team place.

Ranieri outlined more lavish plans as he said: "I have asked Roman Abramovich to take us to a squad of 22 excellent players. At the moment we have 14 or so."

The Italian failed to specify where these extra "excellent" players would fit into what is becoming a sprawling squad that almost threatens over-population in West London.

So there is no guarantee Ranieri will not target further world-class midfield men to threaten his new boy's ambitions, given that Parker could be considered an added luxury item to an already over-crowded midfield area at Stamford Bridge.

Ranieri has asked Abramovich to open the cheque book to facilitate seven more new faces because he clearly believes that for all Chelsea's stunning progress, they still stand behind Arsenal and Manchester United in the title pecking order.

A test of Chelsea's standing could be to speculate on how many of their squad would be automatic choices at their two rivals.

John Terry would be make that dream team, while cases could also be made for goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, midfield man Frank Lampard and winger Damien Duff.

This is why Abramovich's well-thumbed chequebook will be in use again.

But Ranieiri is not turning back in the fight to invade Arsenal and Manchester United's championship monopoly - and if that means his new 10m capture from Charlton kicking his heels that is another price worth paying for Chelsea.





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