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Chelsea coach says Veron is best in world

Juan Sebastian Veron completed his £15 million move to Chelsea Thursday with the benevolent words of his new head coach elevating him to a status rarely enjoyed at Manchester United.

Veron has swapped red for blue for a cost of £15 million, with £12.5 million up front and a further £2.5 million to be paid over his four-year stay at Stamford Bridge. Only two years earlier he joined United, from Lazio, for £28.1 million.

“Gold comes to Chelsea with Veron,” acclaimed Claudio Ranieri. “I think Veron is the best midfielder in the world and I am happy to have both him and Joe Cole, who is a fantastic young player.”

Veron and Cole, signed for £6.6 million from West Ham United, were the latest arrivals paraded to the Chelsea public and the revolution under new owner Roman Abramovic, which has already cost almost £60 million, is set to continue with Real Mallorca’s Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o as another likely target.

There were no more signings in time to make Thursday’s lunchtime deadline for next week’s Champions’ League third-round qualifier against the Slovakians of MSK Zilina. But Chelsea’s inflated squad could still be extended before the August 31 deadline for domestic competitions.

Ranieri, despite his sparkling acquisitions, refused to promise immediate success, saying: “I am a Roman and Rome wasn’t built in a day. If I remember well, Sir Alex Ferguson took seven years to win his first title.”

The surprise that United sold Veron — and to one of their key Premiership rivals — remains but Ranieri added: “I don’t think about Manchester, I think about Chelsea. I do not worry about what they think. I think positive, I think Chelsea.

“For me, Juan is a top-class player and I am sure he will do better with us. I don’t know why, I just have a feeling. It is not a gamble; I am not a gambler, but I am so sure he will do well.”

Ferguson, speaking after United’s defeat by Sporting Lisbon in Wednesday’s friendly, said he allowed Veron to be sold in order to bring down the average age of his midfield with acquisitions like Kleberson, the 24-year-old Brazilian who is awaiting a work permit, and Cameroon international Eric Djemba-Djemba, 22.

“They are both midfielders who could serve us well in years to come. That’s the reason we let Seba go,” Ferguson said. “We will always miss the sort of quality that he can give us. He’s been a terrific player for us but we have played without him before a lot of times.”

The praise from his new employers, however, was more lavish. As he listened to Ranieri’s fulsome tribute, Veron sat patiently with his two diamond earrings glinting and his two children — Iara, four, and three-year-old Deian — playing happily in the background.

“What the head coach says is an exaggeration but his appreciation will spur me on to give to him and to Chelsea what they expect from me,” said the Argentine.

“There is much more to come from my performances. Last season I was ordinary — I had good games, bad games, excellent games, but I didn’t have my regular flow. Football in Italy and England is very different but, as a player, I don’t think I need to demonstrate to anybody what I can do. But I do feel motivated to respond to all the people who have shown faith in me.

“It’s difficult to leave a top club like Manchester United because there are very few in the world like them. But Chelsea have the foundations in place to be as big one day.”

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