Antonio Conte wants Chelsea to re-sign Romelu Lukaku after identifying the Everton forward as a key target for his summer rebuilding programme at Stamford Bridge.
Conte, whom The Independent first named on 7 December as Chelsea's leading target to replace Jose Mourinho, was confirmed on Monday as the permanent successor to Mourinho at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season - he will take over after Italy are finished at Euro 2016.
The former Juventus coach has already drawn up plans for additions to his squad, with the Italian pinpointing Lukaku as the proven goalscorer required to either replace, or compete with, Diego Costa in the forward line.
Everton are likely to fight any efforts to prise Lukaku away from the club, but an offer in excess of £50million would leave the Merseyside outfit battling to hold onto the player.
Such a move would mark an embarrassing U-turn by Chelsea, who sold the Belgian forward to Everton in a £28m deal in July 2014 following Mourinho’s decision to allow the striker to leave Stamford Bridge.
Having been signed by Chelsea in an £18m deal from Anderlecht in August 2011, Lukaku started just one Premier League game for the club before being loaned to West Bromwich Albion and Everton, prior to his permanent move to Goodison Park two years ago.
But with Mourinho having the final say on Lukaku’s sale, Chelsea are prepared to pursue the 22-year-old for Conte this summer, with the club likely to cite Mourinho’s decision to sell the player as justification for attempting to bring him back to west London.
Conte is keen to reduce the average age of the Chelsea squad and sees Lukaku’s relative youth, combined with his Premier League experience, as a major plus point.
Lukaku’s goalscoring record in the Premier League with Everton has seen him score 28 times in 66 league games since the start of the 2014-15 campaign and, with Radamel Falcao, Alexandre Pato and Loic Remy all expected to leave Chelsea this summer, Conte has informed the club that he will need at least two new forwards.
And with Costa’s future also under a cloud due to ongoing interest from former club Atletico Madrid, Conte could arrive at Chelsea having to rebuild his entire attacking department.
Chelsea are set to face competition from Manchester United and Juventus for Lukaku, who has made no secret of his desire to play for an established powerhouse.
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