Chelsea transfer rumours and news: Blues join Manchester United in Gareth Bale race; Eden Hazard a £100m target for Real Madrid

The Blues are reportedly ready to rival Manchester United for the signature of Gareth Bale; Tottenham on alert as London foes show an interest in Axel Witsel; Radamel Falcao exit becomes a reality as MLS club reveal interest

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According to the Daily Mirror, Chelsea are preparing a stunning hijack of Manchester United’s bid to entice Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale to Old Trafford. New Real boss Zinedine Zidane is known to be an admirer of the Welshman’s talents but may have little say should either English club meet his astronomical valuation. The Spanish giant’s president Florentino Perez would demand a fee in the region of £150m for Bale to leave the Bernabeu. But Chelsea are desperate to prove they remain on the world stage after a disastrous season which has seen them sack Jose Mourinho and fall into the bottom half of the Premier League table. The report suggests the Blues may use Eden Hazard as bait as part of a part-exchange deal with Madrid.

The Daily Star go even stronger on the Hazard line, reporting that Los Blancos are willing to pay £100m for the Belgian winger. Zidane is a known admirer of the 24-year-old and in November called said that Hazard was his third favourite player in world football. "After Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Hazard is my favourite player," revealed Zidane at the time. "It is spectacular to see him play. Do I see him going to Real Madrid? I love the player, that’s all I will say."

It is not just United who will be unhappy to read the gossip columns this morning. The Daily Mail report that Chelsea are considering entering the race to sign Tottenham Hotspur target Axel Witsel after holding negotiations with the Zenit St Petersburg star last summer. The 26-year-old is valued in the region of £23m by the Russian club but the Blues are unlikely to be deterred by such a fee as they look to repair their season. Witsel has made 133 appearances for Zenit but with manager Andre Villas-Boas planning to leave in the summer, these are uncertain times. The Belgium international is believed to be desperate to play in the Champions League next year – possibly giving Spurs the upper hand – but the Chelsea hierarchy are optimistic they can persuade him to choose Stamford Bridge as his next destination.

In an attempt to free up some valuable funds this January, Guus Hiddink may be tempted to scrap Radamel Falcao’s loan agreement. The Monaco striker is enduring another desperate campaign in English football after failing to make his mark during a similar agreement with Manchester United last season. The Daily Star say the Columbian could be set for a surprise move to MLS side Columbus Crew in an attempt to salvage his waning career. It remains to be seen if Hiddink would object to the switch, with just Diego Costa and Loic Remy as his other first-team strikers, but it would ensure Falcao’s reported £140,000-per-week wages could be wiped off the wage bill in the capital. The 29-year-old has also attracted the interest of La Liga outfit Valencia in recent times.

Croatian wonder kid Ante Coric has refuted speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea – this month at least. The Dinamo Zagreb midfielder insisted that he has agreed with the club’s board to stay until the end of the season despite the Blues being known to be keen admirers of his talents. “I’m staying at Dinamo,” he said, speaking to “Today we had a meeting at the club and we agreed that I’ll be staying. I wanted to be treated better here, and I’ve been assured I’ll be playing more, I’ll be a key player.” Chelsea have scouted 18-year-old Coric intensely since the start of the season but appear willing to wait until a more suitable moment to make their move despite knowing of interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid. 

Branislav Ivanovic could be about to leave Chelsea this month

Turkish club Galatasaray are the latest side to show their interest in Branislav Ivanovic, the Blues defender who has suffered a torrid collapse in form this year. Sports paper AMK claim the Serbian international has emerged as a very possible target with his contract set to expire at the end of the season. The 31-year-old has played all the matches under new boss Hiddink but supporters are torn about his merits as Chelsea contemplate a squad revamp in the summer. It is unlikely that they would be willing to sell without securing a short-term replacement but the Chelsea backroom staff are aware they may lose Ivanovic for nothing in six months’ time if they fail to act during the current transfer window.

According to the Daily Mail, Loic Remy will only leave Stamford Bridge if the Blues can find an adequate replacement for the striker. The Frenchman, 29, has barely featured this season, making only one start in the Premier League, but is wanted on loan by Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.