Football: EPL giants Chelsea to join Bayern Munich in Singapore for ICC?

Chelsea's Diego Costa celebrates scoring their second goal with John Terry at the FA Cup Fifth Round in Molineux on Feb 18, 2017.
Chelsea's Diego Costa celebrates scoring their second goal with John Terry at the FA Cup Fifth Round in Molineux on Feb 18, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The International Champions Cup (ICC), which Singapore will host in July, looks set to showcase two giants of European football crossing swords at the National Stadium.

Sources told The Straits Times that English Premier League champions-elect Chelsea are in negotiations with organisers to play here. Talks are believed to be at advanced stage.

If all goes well, they will join 26-time German league champions Bayern Munich in the tournament. Bayern chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Rummenigge last month confirmed that the Bavarian side will be playing two matches in Singapore.

It is expected to be the Blues' first friendly match here. Italian outfit Inter Milan are rumoured to be the last club to round up the list of foreign teams.

An announcement about the ICC is expected to be made this month. It is an annual club competition featuring top European clubs facing off in pre-season friendly matches around the world.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were among the teams involved last year, with games held in Australia, China, the United States and across Europe.

When contacted, a Chelsea official said in an e-mail that nothing has been confirmed yet.

However, the club will definitely be in Asia this summer after confirming a friendly match against rivals Arsenal in Beijing on July 22.

The Blues, under Italian manager Antonio Conte, have been in inspired form this season and are 10 points ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur with 12 games remaining.

The star-studded line-up would make the ICC the biggest football event to be played at the 55,000-capacity new National Stadium, which was completed in 2014.

The last time such high-profile clubs lit up Kallang was during the Premier League Asia Trophy in 2015, when EPL teams Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City vied for honours alongside a Singapore selection.

Then, a record 81,974 fans packed the venue over two days.

That tournament, however, will be played in Hong Kong this year, although the ICC would more than make up for its absence here this time round.

All this makes for an exciting period for the National Stadium.

 

ST reported last month that sports marketing agency Lagardere Sports is in talks to bring Argentina, ranked first in Fifa's world rankings, here in June.

La Albiceleste are ranked first in Fifa's world rankings and boast star players including Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the world's best player, and Sergio Aguero.

A Lagardere Sports spokesman said ongoing commercial discussions are confidential but added that the agency is "keen to be involved in staging premium events at the (Singapore Sports Hub)".

Bayern, meanwhile, are wasting no time in raising their profile in Singapore ahead of the ICC. The Bundesliga leaders will be organising a seven-a-side youth football tournament here next month in partnership with F-17 Football Academy.

Hasan Salihamidzic, who spent nine years at Bayern, will be in town to select the best players, who will then represent Singapore in the world finals in May.