Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly ready to play a leading role in ensuring that the Blues land Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Axel Witsel this summer.
The Daily Star claims that the businessman, who is worth $8.4 billion according to Forbes, will fly to Russia himself to negotiate the transfer with his friend – Zenit owner Alexander Dyukov Valeryevich.
Witsel admitted in an interview to Belgian newspaper La Capitale that he is seeking a new challenge after winning the Russia Premier League with Zenit last season.
He said: “I’m 26 and that’s a good age to try a new experience. I always said that I did not want to leave Zenit until we had won the league. Well we have done that now.
“I don’t have a preferred league to play in. My aim is to play at a top club in a top league.”
The Belgian international also told La Capitale at the start of July that he was in “advanced talks” with Serie A champions Juventus.
“[Talks] are at an advanced stage and they are continuing,” he said. “They are a super team with a magnificent project, which is to get back to being what they were in the era of [Zinedine] Zidane and [Pavel] Nedved.
“The contact is there, both with me and with Zenit. It is a place which could suit me. It is time to leave Zenit.”
But there does not seem to have been any progress with the Champions League finalists, and the Daily Star adds that Abramovich is planning to use his connections in Russia to swoop for Witsel.
The Premier League champions might be in the market for central midfield reinforcements as John Obi Mikel is close to joining United Arab Emirates outfit Al Ain, according to The Telegraph.
However, BBC Sport suggests that Jose Mourinho will block the Nigerian’s departure from Stamford Bridge this summer, prompting fresh questions over who controls recruitment at Chelsea.
Manchester United have also been keeping tabs on Witsel, as The Independent reports, but Louis van Gaal’s double coup of midfielders this week means that interest is now likely dead.
The Red Devils completed the signings of German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin on Monday, as BBC Sport reports.
Chelsea are likely to pay Zenit around £24m for Witsel should the deal go through, according to The Express.