Liverpool ready to hijack Chelsea's bid for Oxlade-Chamberlain
Liverpool determined to strengthen as record £48m Keita deal kicks off transfer frenzy
Chelsea have kicked off what promises to be a frantic climax to a transfer window by agreeing a fee with Arsenal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and making progress on a deal to send Diego Costa back to Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea will now work quickly to try to wrap up a £35 million (€38m) deal for Oxlade-Chamberlain and head off the threat of a rival bid from Liverpool, who have made an offer for Thomas Lemar worth more than £64.6m (€70m).
Liverpool want Lemar or Oxlade-Chamberlain before the transfer window shuts on Thursday night and could try to snatch the England international out of Chelsea's grasp if Monaco maintain their stance that Lemar is not for sale.
Jurgen Klopp is determined to strengthen his squad and yesterday Liverpool sealed a club record deal of £48m (€52m) for RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita, who will move to Anfield in a year's time.
Keita was Klopp's prime target throughout the close season but he was frustrated in his efforts to secure the 22-year-old ahead of this campaign. Keita has an exit clause of £48m in his contract which can be triggered in 12 months. Leipzig were prepared to negotiate now to secure an additional premium, taking the fee potentially beyond £50m (€54m).
Liverpool were prepared to pay extra to ensure they are not out-flanked in the future, with several others circling around the Guinea midfielder.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of four signings Chelsea want to make in the final days of the transfer window, along with midfielders Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley and forward Fernando Llorente, as they also attempt to agree a deal for AWOL forward Costa to leave Stamford Bridge.
Fresh talks have been held over Costa between Chelsea and Atletico, and there is now a sense that the two clubs are close to agreeing a deal that is likely to be worth around £40m (€43m) plus significant add-ons.
Atletico are thought to be open to sending Costa on loan for six months, until he can play for the Spanish club in January, or putting him on a specialised training regime.
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Everton are one of a number of clubs, including Monaco and Marseille, interested in taking Costa on loan but sources close to the 28-year-old doubt whether he would want to play in England again up until the New Year.
Chelsea would not try to block Costa joining Everton on loan, as he would not have to face them before January and, in theory, he could do damage to some of their Premier League title rivals.
Having agreed a fee with Arsenal, Chelsea will now open talks with Oxlade-Chamberlain over personal terms while hoping that Liverpool do not match their bid.
Oxlade-Chamberlain will be granted special leave from England duty while he decides his future and could miss the World Cup qualifier against Malta.
Chelsea will have hoped to have been given a free run at Oxlade-Chamberlain after learning of Liverpool’s bid for Lemar, but that may not be the case if Monaco refuse to sell.
Liverpool have increased their offer for Lemar to more than €70m and are now pushing hard for a deal to be completed before the transfer window closes.
While paying €70m for Lemar would smash Liverpool’s transfer record, it does not mean that the club are re-considering whether they should sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.
Monaco have lost Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva already during this window and have now agreed to deal to allow Kylian Mbappe to leave for Paris Saint-Germain.