Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has flown to South Africa to try to secure the signing of Fernando Torres for a British record of £50m (€60m).
The extraordinary fee still falls short of Liverpool's £70m (€84m) valuation of their prize asset in what is set to be a summer of turmoil at Anfield. Javier Mascherano is also understood to be adamant that he wants to leave and Steven Gerrard is still attracting very strong interest from Real Madrid.
Abramovich's presence here shows how seriously Chelsea are taking their pursuit of Torres, who is hoping to keep his place in the Spain side for Tuesday's semi-final in Durban against Germany despite a series of indifferent displays in the tournament.
Chelsea have long-coveted the striker and have spent months discussing the best strategy to sign him.
Their interest will, probably, be rivalled by Manchester City but the allure of playing Champions League football makes them the favourites to secure Torres who wants to remain in England should he leave Liverpool.
Barcelona are also interested but they are struggling to raise the funds while the 27 year-old is unsure he wants to return to Spain yet.
Despite a stream of denials by Torres's agents Bahía Internacional – including a statement yesterday by his agent Juan Antonio Martín – both Chelsea and City have been led to believe that he wants to leave this summer.
However because Chelsea are set to bid below the valuation anticipated by Liverpool, it may mean Torres will have to push for a move which could make things messy.
Earlier this year, City's football administrator, Brian Marwood, is understood to have reached an informal agreement by which a bid would be mounted if the club finished in the top four, and qualified for the Champions League, although their hopes have receded. However they will attempt to rival Chelsea for Torres's signature, especially having already acquired David Silva from Valencia as part of a huge spending spree this summer which has also led to the arrival of Yaya Touré and Jerome Boateng.
Further signings – including targets James Milner and Edin Dzeko – are expected.
Torres laid down a marker in what is turning into a protracted exit strategy when he said he wanted Liverpool to recruit half a dozen high-calibre players this summer to avoid last season's disappointment.
But he has said he will speak to new manager Roy Hodgson before resolving his future.
Liverpool have already sold Yossi Benayoun to Chelsea for £5.5m (€6.6m) but the departure of Torres would represent a significant admission by the club that they are struggling to compete especially if Mascherano – who is wanted by Rafael Benítez at Inter Milan – also leaves.
Matters are, of course, complicated by Liverpool's limited finances and the attempts to sell the club by their American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Abramovich was in South Africa for the start of the World Cup but has now returned to show Torres and his representatives how serious his intent is.
He is hoping to meet with Torres' agents over the next few days. A source close to the deal said last night that the Chelsea owner was "pushing very hard" to complete the deal.
Liverpool meanwhile are believed to be monitoring Maynor Figueroa, Wigan's Honduran international left-back. The 27 year-old, who has spent two seasons at the DW Stadium, is expected to leave for around £6 million this summer but wishes to remain in England.
Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager who brought Figueroa to the Premier League, attempted to take the player to the Stadium of Light in January and is expected to renew his interest, but may face competition as Hodgson looks to bolster his defence.
Hodgson has just £12.5m (€15m) to spend and inherited one senior left back, the inexperienced Argentine international, Emiliano Insúa.
Hodgson, the former Fulham manager, has also been linked with a move for former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva, currently with Panathinaikos, while Joe Ledley, whose contract at Cardiff City has expired, is also thought to be under consideration.