CHELSEA are planning to continue their rebuilding under manager Andre Villas-Boas with a £20million bid next month for Everton's Jack Rodwell.
There has been no offer lodged for the England U21 international yet, but there is firm interest from Stamford Bridge in the youngster, who has started to fulfil his potential at Goodison this season.
Everton will be desperate to keep hold of one of their prized assets, but a major offer would be hard to resist given their financial difficulties.
Manager David Moyes would much rather wait until the end of the season than sell the 20-year-old now, but knows he will be powerless to stop a deal if his valuation is met.
Rodwell could have left last summer for the right price, and it was a surprise when none of the top four made a move. However, he endured a difficult 12 months last season, and was not even a first choice in Stuart Pearce's U21 squad at the European Championships.
He has started to show his credentials during this campaign, graduating to Fabio Capello's senior England squad having played at every level for his country.
That has prompted fresh moves from Stamford Bridge. Rodwell is now a contender for Euro 2012, and is expected to be a regular by the time of the next World Cup.
Villas-Boas needs to add youth to his ranks, especially in central midfield, with Frank Lampard entering the twilight of his career and Michael Essien having suffered a series of injury setbacks.
Rodwell fits the bill, not only because of his age, but also because he would not be cup-tied for this season's Champions League when it resumes in January.
His arrival at Stamford Bridge would be seen as a sign of owner Roman Abramovich's enduring faith in his Portuguese coach, who is leading a period of transition in west London despite a tough baptism in the Premier League.
It is clear the Russian wallet is being opened once more in this January window to revive Chelsea's fortunes, and a bid for
Rodwell represents another show of intent. Chelsea are also monitoring the progress of another rising Everton star, Ross Barkley, although the 18-year-old has just signed a new four-year deal at Goodison.
If Chelsea do lodge an official bid for Rodwell, they are likely to face competition from Manchester United.