Chelsea transfer news: Antonio Conte 'ready to offer Eden Hazard' in pursuit of Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci

The Blues are desperate to plug the gaps in their leaky defence after an indifferent start

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The Independent Football

Chelsea may be prepared to use Eden Hazard as bait in their pursuit of Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci as Antonio Conte prioritises defensive cover this January, according to reports. 

Both Gary Cahill and David Luiz, who returned from Paris Saint-Germain for £30m this summer, have endured tough starts to the new campaign, conceding the same amount of goals as newly-promoted Burnley, and so Chelsea have elected to act.

Juventus are hesitant to give the Blues any indication that they may be prepared to sell the Italian defender after already offloading Paul Pogba to Manchester United for a world-record £89m this summer.

But reports by The Sun newspaper suggest they would be prepared to discuss a deal for Bonucci if Chelsea agreed to both break the record spent on a defender while also adding Cesc Fabregas in a player-plus cash agreement.

Conte, however, is said to prefer cutting Hazard adrift to cut the cash value of the deal by as much as half and so lower the expectation on Bonucci’s shoulders should he eventually join the Stamford Bridge outfit this winter.

Hazard, 25, was voted as the PFA Player of the Year in 2015 but his star has dimmed somewhat since after Chelsea’s disastrous title defence the following season. Juventus are still seeking a midfield anchor to compensate for the loss of Pogba and Fabregas fits the bill - meaning talks have stalled.

Nonetheless, Conte worked with the Italian centre-back for three years in Turin. Earlier this year Bonucci said: “Conte will be a big success in England, Chelsea are already a very good team and he will have them challenging both in England and in Europe.

“He is the boss, and if you listen to him and show him respect, you will see he is one of the best bosses in the game. The players in the Italy team nicknamed him The Godfather. That means when he talks, you listen. You do what he says and you don’t argue. Players want to listen, though.”