80/1 Champions League hopefuls Zenit St Petersburg are set to splash yet more cash with the Russian club preparing a £21million swoop for Chelsea misfit Yuri Zhirkov.
The move for the Premier League champions’ left-back follows hot on the heels of Zenit’s £18.3million purchase of Portugal defender Bruno Alves, which was confirmed on Wednesday.
Zenit are the unbeaten league leaders in Russia and qualified for the play-off round of the Champions League after beating Unirea Urziceni 1-0 on Wednesday evening.
The 2008 UEFA Cup winners want to seriously bolster their squad ahead of a two-fronted campaign with manager Luciano Spalletti already bringing in Aleksandar Lukovic and Aleksandr Bukharov.
Zenit are 13/10 to beat Spartak Moscow in the capital on August 8th.
26-year-old Zhirkov endured a tough first season at Stamford Bridge, struggling with injuries in both knees and making just 10 Premier League starts following an £18.6m move from CSKA Moscow.
6/1 Champions League contenders Chelsea signed the Russian, who has 34 caps for his nation, before Carlo Ancelotti arrived and the Italian boss has always preferred Ashley Cole when fit.
Indeed, Zhirkov was at fault for Hamburg’s equaliser in Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to the German side last night.
For his part, Zhirkov, who can also play as a left winger, was reticent on a potential shift. “I can say that I am a Chelsea player and it’s a great honour to play for the club,” he said.
Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Manchester United (2/1 to win the league) have shorn a player ahead of the league campaign, as youngster Tom Cleverley has agreed to a season-long loan deal with Wigan Athletic.
20-year-old Cleverley is a fancied prospect at Old Trafford but manager Sir Alex Ferguson had already confirmed the England Under-21 international would go on loan to a top-flight team this year.
Wigan, who lost 3-1 to Real Zaragoza last night, are getting a midfielder with real skill, as demonstrated by his sublime solo goal against the MLS All Stars, and Cleverley is sure to be an asset in the Latic’s fight against relegation (which they are 9/4 to lose).
Cleverley, who scored 11 goal in 33 games on loan at Watford last season, is likely to feature in Wigan’s opening day encounter with Blackpool at the JJB Stadium, which Roberto Martinez’s side are 4/5 to win.