Chelsea have joined Manchester United and Paris St-Germain as the leading clubs who are considering a move for the Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines, who is valued at around £15m by his club.
Baines, 28, has emerged as one of the finest left-backs in Europe this season and has two years left on his existing deal at Everton after this season. It is highly unlikely that David Moyes would sanction Baines' sale next month, but the player is expected to be the subject of some interest come the summer.
United refused to pay Everton's £15m valuation of Baines last summer but he has subsequently had his best season yet. Paris St-Germain are interested in Ashley Cole, out of contract at Chelsea next summer, but are also considering Baines. Chelsea regard him as a potential successor to Cole.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have not given up on signing the Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao next month, despite an acceptance at the west London club that the deal is now more likely to happen in the summer.
The club will go back to Atletico in the next few weeks to attempt to negotiate a fee for the player, who has a reputed buyout clause of £48m. They are not planning to have him for the second half of this season, although it remains a slim possibility.
The striker said yesterday, while in his native Colombia at an awards ceremony, that he expected to stay at Atletico until the end of the season. "I realise that Enrique Cerezo [Atletico president] has made a great effort to keep me and our results have been good. We want to keep that up to the end of the season."
Chelsea had hoped by now to announce that a deal to sell Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool in the next transfer window had been agreed but the move has again hit a snag over the sell-on fee due to Manchester City.
The deal is still expected to go through but it has not been made straightforward by changing demands from the player's camp.
While Falcao is the long-term target for Chelsea, the Bayer Leverkusen striker Andre Schürrle is a more realistic proposition in the next window. The Barcelona striker David Villa is another option, possibly on loan. Chelsea hope to make two signings next month, including at least one striker.
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