Chelsea have accelerated talks over Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado as manager Jose Mourinho prepares for the possible January exits of Mohamed Salah and André Schürrle.
Chelsea have identified a right-sided forward as a priority signing for the summer with Cuadrado one of their top targets.
But Roma’s desire to sign Salah and interest from Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund in Schürrle has prompted Chelsea to bring forward their plans and line Cuadrado up for a January move.
Chelsea’s January bid for Cuadrado is very much dependent on either or both of Salah and Schürrle leaving this month. Should the pair stay at Stamford Bridge, then the Colombian’s move will be delayed until the end of the season.
Cuadrado was named in Fiorentina’s starting line-up for their Copa Italia game against Atlanta on Wednesday night, which underlined the fact the Italian club are willing to hold out for the full £26.8million release clause that is in his contract.
Sources in Italy claim Cuadrado’s agent is due in London for talks with Chelsea over the 26-year-old who finished the World Cup with the most assists – equal with Germany’s Toni Kroos.
Predominantly a right winger, Cuadrado would inject greater pace into Chelsea’s forward line and his crossing ability would be appreciated by striker Diego Costa.
This is Cuadrado’s third season at Fiorentina, but the player has apparently expressed a desire to leave the club and has previously attracted the interest of Manchester United.
Chelsea have worked under a one out, one in policy for some time now in a bid to meet Financial Fair Play rules.
Roma want to pay a small fee to take Salah on loan for the rest of the season with the option to then sign him for around £12m in the summer. Wolfsburg are understood to be prepared to pay £23m for Schürrle, but the German international would prefer to join Dortmund.
Dortmund have expressed an interest in Schürrle, but it is unclear whether or not they want to sign him this month or wait until the summer when the future of Marco Reus will be decided.
Chelsea would be keen to set up a deal where Schürrle joins Dortmund and Reus moves in the opposite direction, but, for now, Cuadrado is the more realistic target.
Another player who could leave Stamford Bridge to help fund a January move for Cuadrado is Thorgan Hazard, who Borussia Monchengladbach want to sign permanently.
It is understood Chelsea want more than the £8m Monchengladbach are currently willing to pay, but director of sport Max Eberl said: “The talks with Chelsea are ongoing, but we're confident that we'll find an agreement.”
Mourinho has insisted that he would be happy for his first-team squad to remain the same until the end of the season, as they chase success on all four fronts.
But when asked whether Salah could go, Mourinho hinted at his interest in Cuadrado by saying: “I have a very short squad, I need everybody. For Salah to leave someone has to come, and I don't think we are going to let Salah go on loan and then spend some money to bring somebody else in.
“So I don't think so, unless my club comes to me and says Salah goes on loan and we are going to buy a £50m player.”
Neither Salah nor Schürrle were involved in Chelsea’s matchday squad for the Tuesday night Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg draw against Liverpool at Anfield.
With next week’s second leg to come, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has revealed belief is growing within the Chelsea squad that they can achieve an unprecedented quadruple this season.
Chelsea are top of the Premier League table and still involved in the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League, and Courtois said: “It will be hard, but we have the team that can win everything. It's what we're aiming for.
“It's difficult to say, but in this moment we are playing well. We have passed through all competitions. Now we are in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, are top of the League, there is an important game in the FA Cup on Saturday which we have to win and soon we will be playing PSG in the Champions League.
“Obviously if you play a final and win it, you get that feeling to win trophies and you want to win more and more and more. That feeling is in the whole group now, especially after what happened last season when they didn't win anything and were close to some trophies. You want to win everything that's possible, starting with the League Cup.
“Myself, Costa, Filipe, Fabregas and the rest of the team want to win trophies for Chelsea. That starts in the League Cup to the last game in the Champions League. We want to win everything, it will be difficult, but I think we have the team to do it. Hopefully we can achieve it.”