According to reports, Chelsea are inching closer to a deal to sign Aurelian Tchoumeni.
Thomas Tuchel wants to strengthen his squad by giving special priority to the midfield area.
N’Golo Kante continues to grapple with injuries while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul Niguez are no more than squad players.
This has seen the Blues try to work out a deal for Monaco rising star Tchoumeni.
According to Matt Law of The Telegraph, French partner Target will be a cheaper alternative to Declan Rice.
And the Stamford Bridge club has a strong relationship with Tchoumeni’s agent after Sevilla agreed a deal for Jules Conde in the summer before pulling the plug while talks continue on a 2022 transfer.
Both players are represented by the French agency Excellence Sport Nation.
Asked whether Tchoumeni is Chelsea’s No. 1 central midfield target, Law told the London Is Blue podcast: “It looks like it is heading in that direction.
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“I think he shares an agent with Kaunde, with whom Chelsea are in a lot of contact, and I think there’s a good relationship between Chelsea and Kaunde’s agent from everything that happens over the summer.
“Certainly there was no blame attached to Kaundé’s agent that the deal was heading south, it was all on the replacement of Sevilla’s goalposts.
“I know that Kaunde’s agent was angry with Sevilla.
“It looks like Tchoumeni will be a cheaper option than Deccan Rice. Whether that makes him Option A, let’s see.
“But I certainly think, at this point in time, there is a direction of travel that is quite positive in terms of Chelsea and Tchoumeni.”
Tchoumeni, 21, has earned a lot of praise for his performances with Monaco.
The holding midfielder has played 28 of his 30 matches this season, starting with 26 and captaining his team in the Europa League.
At the international level, he has completed the transition from France’s under-16s to the senior team.
He made his debut on 1 September and has already amassed seven caps by winning the Nations League in October.
But Chelsea know they will face considerable competition for Tchoumeni, who is under contract at Principality until 2024.
Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid have all been linked with making moves before – although Juventus reportedly pulled out of the race.
However, Monaco chief Paul Mitchell warned the rising star would not leave on the cheap.
The former head of Tottenham recruitment said: “He is a complete midfielder, very quick and physically strong, he reminds me of Steven Gerrard.
“He is already a top player despite being only 21 years old, but if we want to be a top club, we should not sell him.
“We are an ambitious club. Everyone is ambitious here, from President Rybolovlev to coach Nico Kovac.
“Everything is expensive in Monte Carlo, let’s say Tchoumeni is as expensive as the Grand Casino.”
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