Chelsea have made a late enquiry about the availability of Inter Milan centre-back Milan Skriniar though face significant competition from Paris Saint-Germain, according to reports.
Thomas Tuchel has made signing two new centre-backs this summer his top priority after losing two mainstays of his backline, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, on free transfers.
For the second centre-back, Tuchel would ideally like a player capable of playing on the left of a back three, which has seen links emerge with former academy player Nathan Ake.
But Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting that Skriniar could also be in the frame for that role, with Chelsea asking about the Slovakian during a meeting with Inter bosses on Monday.
The two clubs have been in negotiations over Romelu Lukaku’s loan return to San Siro – which could be rubberstamped this week for a loan fee of just £7million.
Early on in the talks, Chelsea had enquired about the possibility of including players such as Alessandro Bastoni and Lautaro Martinez in a deal for Lukaku, which Inter flat-out refused, and the Blues had not initially shown any real interest in Skriniar.
But now Gazzetta say Chelsea are looking into the possibility of rivalling PSG for the signing of Skriniar, with Inter welcoming their interest if the Blues meet their asking price.
So far, the French champions are still some way short of Inter’s asking price and Chelsea were made aware that Skriniar is free to leave if a bid of €70million (£60m) arrives.
The Premier League club’s hierarchy left the meeting with a feeling that a deal might be possible, even though the 27-year-old has already agreed personal terms on a lucrative contract with PSG.
Inter were said to be surprised by the timing of Chelsea’s enquiry, having not mentioned the defender during the weeks of talks they have had to discuss Lukaku.
Tuchel is believed to be a big fan of Skriniar and feels he fits the profile of centre-back he is looking for to replace Rudiger, possessing both leadership qualities and an enormous amount of experience both in Serie A and at international level.
Chelsea are also ramping up their pursuit of De Ligt and are hoping to convince Juventus to take Timo Werner in part-exchange, while the Blues are working to secure a deal with Manchester City for Raheem Sterling too.
For more stories like this, check our sport page.