Chelsea move to secure £20m deal for Leicester star Kante
Chelsea have moved swiftly to open talks over signing midfielder N'Golo Kante as Antonio Conte attempts to shape his squad.
Barely 24 hours after Kante's Euro 2016 campaign came to an end with France's final defeat to Portugal, Chelsea formalised their interest in the player in the hope of concluding a deal. But they are aware that triggering Kante's £20 million release clause may not be enough to land the Leicester City star.
Chelsea may need to pay more than £20m because Kante's clause still allows Leicester to sell to the highest bidder and the Premier League champions have already received a £35 m offer from Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.
Kante is not interested in joining Shanghai and has set his heart on a move to Stamford Bridge, so Chelsea will now have to negotiate a fee with Leicester after activating his clause. It is not anticipated they will have to go as high as £35m.
The 25-year-old has turned down a new £100,000-a-week contract at Leicester and Chelsea are hopeful they can now reach an agreement for the man widely regarded as the player of last season.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Juventus have all shown an interest in Kante, but Chelsea have emerged as favourites for his signature. Conte, the new Chelsea head coach, is keen to add energy to his midfield and has seen more than one bid rejected for Roma's Radja Nainggolan before moving for Kanté.
Other than Kante, Conte is hoping Chelsea can tie up the signing of defender Kalid Koulibaly, for whom the club made a bid worth £34m, and has not given up hope of landing striker Álvaro Morata, despite Real Madrid's reluctance to sell.
Conte will take his first training session as Chelsea head coach tomorrow with the Chelsea players who were not involved in the knockout stages of Euro 2016 or the Copa America returning for fitness tests yesterday.