Chelsea will match any bid from Manchester City for Everton and England star Ross Barkley, Goal understands.
Premier League champions City are big admirers of Barkley having identified the 20-year-old as a future star even before he broke into the Toffees’ first team, and are weighing up a big-money offer to tempt Everton into a sale.
However, Chelsea too are keenly monitoring the 20-year-old’s situation and would be determined to rival City for his signature should Everton decide a huge offer would be too good to turn down.
As it stands, Everton are desperate to hang on to a player that only signed a new long-term contract at Goodison Park this summer.
Barkley put pen-to-paper after deciding his immediate future would be best served at his hometown club, though that was only after both City and Chelsea had made enquiries over the player’s availability.
Following further early-summer interest from Manchester United, the player’s reported valuation soared to roughly £50m – and only a bid around that mark could possibly tempt the Merseysiders into the sale of a player who broke into the England fold at the end of last season, winning a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.
Should Everton opt to cash in, City would make a detemined move as part of a push to bolster their ‘homegrown’ quota following the sales of the likes of Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell over the summer.
Chelsea, though, are hopeful that they have a trump card in the shape of senior international scout Mick Doherty.
Doherty spent seven years with Everton up until 2011 and enjoyed a good relationship with Barkley, who was coming through the ranks at the time.
It is expected that Doherty will strongly recommend Chelsea make their move, with City also continuing to monitor the situation ahead of making a formal bid in the summer.
Barkley, who was tipped to spearhead Roberto Martinez’s second season in charge of the Toffees, is expected to be out until November at the earliest after injuring his knee ligaments during pre-season.