Chelsea are looking to shake up their defence by putting right-back Jose Bosingwa up for sale and targeting £15 million centre-half Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid.
The Premier League champions are also closely tracking Ajax right-back Gregory van der Wiel, who would cost around £18 m. They are considering him as Bosingwa’s replacement although no deal is likely until the summer unless they can sell the Portuguese this month.
Chelsea are also interested in 19-year-old Belgian striker Kevin de Bruyne but have not yet entered into negotiations with his club, Genk, and would balk at the suggestions being made that the youth international would cost up to £10m. There is, however, a vacancy expected in the Chelsea squad with the Italian striker Fabio Borini, 19, set to join Parma once he has proved his fitness.
The first-team priority for Chelsea, with Alex out injured until next month at least, is, however, a central defender and Godin may prove a more realistic and cheaper target than either David Luiz — manager Carlo Ancelotti’s No 1 choice — or Bolton's Gary Cahill.
If Chelsea do sign a central defender they will send Jeffrey Bruma out on loan and have already fielded a number of inquiries for the promising 19 year-old who made his full international debut for Holland earlier this season but desperately needs more first-team experience.
Ancelotti has made clear in discussions with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the club’s board that Alex’s prolonged absence and the ongoing concerns over John Terry’s fitness are severely damaging the team’s ambitions this season. Chelsea fear that Terry, who is managing a chronic back and leg problem, may break down at any time while Alex only returned to the club last week to step up his rehabilitation work after undergoing knee surgery and returning to Brazil.
Godin joined Atletico Madrid from Villarreal last summer in a deal worth around £7m and the 24 year-old was also a key part of Uruguay’s successful World Cup campaign, featuring in five matches as they made their way to the semi-finals. He made his international debut when he was just 19 and is regarded as a quick and powerful defender who would be suited to the demands of the Premier League.
Ancelotti had earmarked Luiz as his ideal signing but understands that, with Benfica still demanding more than £35m for the 23-year-old Brazilian, he is too expensive even though he is regarded as an exciting talent who can play anywhere across defence as well as a holding midfielder.
Chelsea are understood to have lodged an offer of around half of what the Portuguese club are asking and there is hope, given there is unlikely to be another bidder in this transfer window, that the asking price may be lowered significantly.
Chelsea have also registered an interest in Cahill and although Bolton are stating they want around £20m for the 25 year-old, it is also understood that a deal may be struck at a lower price should a formal offer be registered.
Bosingwa, meanwhile, has struggled to recapture his form after a year-long injury lay-off. However, his position had already been vulnerable with Abramovich understood to have offered him, two summers ago, to Bayern Munich as part of Chelsea’s attempts then to sign the winger Franck Ribery.
Part of Chelsea’s desire to sell him now is also driven by the fact that the 28 year-old, who was signed for £16m from Porto three years ago, without a fee being paid.
Chelsea’s sporting director, Frank Arnesen, told the latest edition of the Ajax Life magazine that the club were interested in Van der Wiel, who is regarded as one of the rising stars of Dutch football. He said of the 22 year-old: “Our priority is now a central defender with Alex injury. Gregory is on our No 1 list but not currently at the top. If we are serious, nothing will happen until the summer.”
Chelsea have also expressed interest in signing Steven Pienaar, who is out-of-contract this summer also, from Everton but Tottenham Hotspur appear to be favourites to secure the South African midfielder either this month or at the end of the season. He is free to talk to clubs now.
Chelsea face Blackburn Rovers on Saturday as they attempt to get their league campaign back on track with Ancelotti having to decide whether to keep faith with Daniel Sturridge in his attack.