Football: EPL runaway leaders may join Bayern in Singapore

Striker Diego Costa (right), Chelsea's top scorer this season, celebrating one of his 16 Premier League goals this term. The Blues will play Premier League rivals Arsenal in Beijing on July 22 and could feature in Singapore that month.
Striker Diego Costa (right), Chelsea's top scorer this season, celebrating one of his 16 Premier League goals this term. The Blues will play Premier League rivals Arsenal in Beijing on July 22 and could feature in Singapore that month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chelsea are in talks with ICC organisers and could play here for first time in July

The International Champions Cup (ICC), which Singapore will host in July, could see two giants of European football cross swords at the National Stadium.

Sources told The Straits Times that English Premier League (EPL) front runners Chelsea are in negotiations with the organisers to play here.

If talks go through, they will join 26-time German league champions Bayern Munich in the tournament. Bayern chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said last month that the Bavarian side will be playing two matches in Singapore. It will also be the Blues' first friendly match here.

Italian giants Inter Milan, 18-time Serie A champions, 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.

When contacted, a Chelsea official said in an e-mail that nothing is confirmed yet. However, the four-time Premier League champions will definitely be in Asia during their off-season after confirming a friendly match against London 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 left.

Chelsea fan Lucius Chua, 29, said of his team: "They've played in Thailand and Malaysia in recent years so it's awesome to finally be able to catch them in the flesh at home.

"That they would likely be coming as champions makes it even more special."

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

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 select side. Then, a record 81,974 fans packed the venue over two match-days. The tournament, however, will be played in Hong Kong this year, although the ICC would more than make up for its absence.

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

ST also 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 boast star players including Barcelona's Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the world's best player of his generation, and Manchester City striker 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 boosting their presence in Singapore. The Bundesliga leaders will be organising a youth tournament here next month in partnership with F-17 Football Academy. Hasan Salihamidzic, who spent nine seasons at Bayern, will be in town to select the best players, who will then represent Singapore in the Bayern Youth Cup World Finals in May.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'EPL Runaway leaders may join Bayern in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe