Eden Hazard lights up interest between two London rivals
Chelsea are ready to go head-to-head with Tottenham Hotspur in the pursuit of Eden Hazard, according to several sources.
Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, is prepared to fund the acquisition of a new attacking player as part of a summer overhaul of the squad, and the 21-year-old Belgian is one of several players the Russian's advisors have targeted.
Hazard was voted the French Player of the Year last season after scoring 12 goals for champions Lille. He has decided to move to England in the summer unless Barcelona or Real Madrid bid for him.
Lille are preparing their close-season recruitment plans on the basis of selling the creative midfielder whose contract has a €40 million (Dh195m) release clause.
Playing Uefa Champions League football is important to Hazard and he will wait to see if Chelsea or Spurs miss out on top-level European competition before deciding his future.
Hazard would add the unpredictability and pace to Chelsea's attack that formed a critical part of a plan drawn up by Abramovich and Andre Villas-Boas to revitalise the club's playing style. Villas-Boas was dismissed at the beginning of this month, but Chelsea's owner is intent on carrying through the restructuring of his squad.
Edinson Cavani, the free-scoring Uruguay international, is also high on Chelsea's list, but Napoli will resist all offers for him because they face losing Ezequiel Lavezzi for his buyout value of €31m, with Paris Saint-Germain prominent among the forward's suitors.
Chelsea also have a long-standing interest in Hulk, the Brazil international, but are more likely to move for Radamel Falcao, his former strike partner at Porto. The Colombian has scored 19 times in 24 Primera appearances since joining Atletico Madrid for €40m last summer, but the Spanish club have significant financial problems and the player would be open to a switch to English football.
A less-expensive option would be Guiseppe Rossi, with Villarreal also under pressure to generate income in the coming transfer window.
The Italy international is close to returning from a knee injury that has kept him out for six months and should be available for €20m. Chelsea, though, will face strong competition for Rossi, 25, from Juventus and Inter Milan.
Abramovich is ready to allow Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to leave on free transfers at the end of the season. Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Paulo Ferreira, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda John Obi Mikel are all available for sale.
There has been no approach from Barcelona for David Luiz. The Catalans are in the market for a central defender, but their principal target is Thiago Silva, whose €40m asking price at AC Milan they are attempting to negotiate down. Barcelona officials earlier this season said they were not interested in bringing David Luiz to Camp Nou.