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Chelsea agree $45m fee for Drogba

Didier Drogba is all set to become Chelsea's record signing

LONDON, England -- Chelsea and Marseille have agreed terms for the transfer of Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, the English Premier League club have confirmed.

Financial details were not disclosed but British media put the figure involved around £24 million ($44.95 million), a club record fee. Last week Marseille rejected a 28m euro ($34.84m) bid for the player.

A statement on the Chelsea website said the club were "delighted" to confirm that terms had been agreed.

Drogba, who is due to arrive in London on Tuesday, is set to become the third most expensive player bought by an English club.

Manchester United paid £30 million for defender Rio Ferdinand in 2002 and £28 million for Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron in 2001.

Drogba, 26, cost Marseille six million euros when he joined from Guingamp a year ago.

The Ivory Coast international scored 18 goals in 35 league games last season and 11 in a European campaign that took Marseille to the UEFA Cup final.

He also scored the winner for Ivory Coast in a World Cup qualifier against Egypt a month ago.

Marseille president Christophe Bouchet said he was reluctant to let the player leave, but that the offer was too good to turn down.

"We reached a definite agreement with Chelsea today, Monday," he said on the club's website.

"The deal was reached at the beginning of the afternoon with (Chelsea chief executive) Peter Kenyon for the transfer of Didier Drogba.

"Didier leaves a big void but we have to be practical. With this money we can build a much better team while at the same time improving the health of our finances."

Chelsea are also on the verge of signing Benfica midfielder Tiago Mendes, who underwent a medical at the London club on Monday. Media reports have put his fee at around £10 million.

The 23-year-old Portuguese international is expected to finalise a deal before Wednesday when Chelsea are due to fly to the United States on a pre-season tour.

"He has come for a medical and negotiations are ongoing," a Chelsea spokeswoman confirmed.

Tiago, who was in the Portugal squad at Euro 2004, is under contract until 2007 but is keen to leave Benfica because of differences with new chief Jose Veiga, who was once his manager.

"I would not feel good if I stayed at Benfica. If everything goes well, my present and future will be at Chelsea."

Tiago scored 19 times since joining Benfica from Sporting Braga halfway through the 2001/2002 season and is a regular first-team choice.

Chelsea, now under Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho, have already signed Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, Portugal fullback Paulo Ferreira and Serbia and Montenegro striker Mateja Kezman for next season.

They finished runners-up to Arsenal in the Premier League last season and reached the Champions League semi-finals.

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