CHELSEA are one of five clubs to inquire about Hearts winger Andy Driver in recent weeks following discussions between Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Romanov over a potential £5million transfer.
The Chelsea owner and Hearts' majority shareholder have been in talks regarding an initial loan agreement for Driver, which would include the option of a subsequent 5m move. The player's contract runs until 2013 and he may be reluctant to move to England's double winners where competition for first-team football is intense, but the approach from one of the world's most illustrious clubs says much for his reputation south of the Border.
Wigan Athletic, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Holland's FC Twente have also been in contact with Hearts as they monitor the 22-year-old closely. Officials at Tynecastle have confirmed interest from two English Premier League clubs, two Championship clubs and a European-based club. To date, only Chelsea's valuation of Driver has matched that of Romanov's.
Burnley have submitted a 1.5m bid but have been informed that offer must double for any business to be done. Chelsea, the English double winners, are keen to increase their quota of home-grown players in line with UEFA regulations. Abramovich and Romanov both believe Driver could thrive in England and a proposed loan agreement with the option of a 5million deal thereafter appeals to Romanov.
The player's fitness is steadily improving following a persistent thigh complaint which restricted him to just 14 appearances last season. He is expected to begin pre-season training on 7 July, although club medics are considering sending him to Sweden for additional treatment.
Hearts were preparing to parade pre-contract signing Darren Barr at Tynecastle today, with assistant manager Billy Brown promising that the club are working diligently to add to the captures of Barr and striker Kevin Kyle.
"We are trying but getting good players – and the right types of players in – isn't easy," he explained. "We know what our aims are, whether we can get them or not we don't know."
Brown believes Kyle harbours the potential to revive his Scotland career if he proves himself with Hearts.
"If he can get back to the form he showed at that time (at Kilmarnock] I think Craig (Levein] will be looking at him."