Chelsea are to planning to offer £4m for Middlesbrough's England Under-21 winger Adam Johnson in January, and then loan him back to the Championship side for the rest of the season.
The Premier League leaders are keen to recruit young English talent to Stamford Bridge in the January window to freshen up their ageing squad and have already had a £14m offer for midfielder Jack Rodwell rejected by Everton. They are also still chasing Atletico Madrid's Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, who is 21.
Chelsea's sporting director Frank Arnesen knows he must cram three windows' worth of recruitment into one month, as the one-year transfer ban for the Gaël Kakuta affair hangs over the club. Arnesen has sent scouts this season to watch Johnson, who has also attracted keen interest from the Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce. Johnson's contract runs out in the summer, and Middlesbrough are becoming resigned to losing the skilful winger.
Arnesen hopes the agreement to loan Johnson back to Middlesbrough for the second-half of the season will give Chelsea the edge in negotiations. Johnson, who has been capped 19 times by England at Under-21 level, has played most of his career on the left but can also feature on the right.
The pursuit of Johnson fits the new transfer trend at Chelsea, who are attempting to recruit some of the best young English players. They are keen to prise 18-year-old Rodwell away from Everton, and are expected to return with an improved bid when the transfer window opens.
Last summer Arnesen was behind the captures of goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, 24, from Middlesbrough and 20-year-old Daniel Sturridge from Manchester City.
Chelsea's two-window ban for the alleged poaching of Kakuta from Lens in 2007 has been temporarily suspended until the club's appeal is heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the new year.
Defender Ashley Cole, who is back in training following a shin injury, yesterday urged the club to bring in new faces in January, when four players will leave for the African Cup of Nation.
The England left-back said: "Every club wants to see new players and at a club like Chelsea every player who comes in will be world class. Of course you would love to see new players, but it is not my money they are spending and it is not down to me.
"The squad is amazing as it is. Of course we are going to miss the African guys when they go to the Cup of Nations. We have got players who can fill in but it is always nice to get new signings."Reuse content