Chelsea are planning a £30m raid in the summer to land the Newcastle pair Cheick Tioté and Tim Krul.
Krul and Tioté have been targeted as part of the rebuilding progress at Chelsea that began under Andre Villas-Boas, before he was dismissed earlier this month. His removal, however, will not stop the desire to overhaul the ageing squad at Stamford Bridge and create a side capable of challenging for the Premier League title. Tioté, at 25, has emerged as one of the most dynamic central midfielders in the country. He would offer the kind of defensive strength in that position which was clearly missing during Villas-Boas's ill-fated attempts to play a more expansive game, in line with owner Roman Abramovich's desires.
The Ivory Coast midfielder, who joined from Twente in August 2010, signed an improved contract six months after arriving at St James' Park, making him one of Newcastle's best paid players on around £67,000 per week. Chelsea would offer a significant improvement even on those terms and are prepared to pay around £20m for his signature.
Krul, the 23-year-old Dutch goalkeeper, has enjoyed a fine first full season as a Premier League player since he was handed the starting position at Newcastle by Alan Pardew in the summer. He has emerged as one of the league's most consistent keepers and Chelsea want him as a replacement for Petr Cech.
Krul moved to Newcastle in 2005 from Den Haag when Graeme Souness was in charge, with a tribunal setting his transfer fee at £200,000. His elevation to first choice saw him rewarded with a new five-year contract at the start of this month. However, Chelsea believe that an offer of £10m would be very difficult for Newcastle to turn down and they could potentially offer the player the chance to perform in the Champions League.
Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias admitted recently that they would struggle to hold on to Tioté if any club came forward with a strong offer. That will now come from Chelsea, who have slipped considerably behind Manchester City and Manchester United this season and their battle even to qualify for the Champions League has hastened the desire for change. Ending the season without the title, as seems certain to be the case, would be the fifth time in six seasons that Abramovich has lost out on the league championship.
Liverpool are also long-term admirers of Tioté, having had the player watched before he signed for Newcastle from Twente for a bargain £3.5m. However, the impending return of Lucas Leiva as he recovers from a cruciate knee injury is expected to rule them out of a move. Manchester United have also tracked Tioté's form this season.
Newcastle have sent scouts to watch the highly-rated Dutch attacking midfielder Adam Maher this season. However, they will face a real fight to land one of the most coveted players in the Eredivisie. The AZ Alkmaar 18-year-old has drawn attention from leading Champions League sides since breaking into the first team at the end of 2010.