Premier League giants Chelsea have made their interest in playmaker Philippe Coutinho official and opened negotiations with Barcelona, according to a report from Spain.
Coutinho, 27, has struggled to settle at Barcelona since his £142m move from Liverpool in January 2018.
Despite an impressive loan spell with Bayern Munich this season, his future still lies away from Barcelona, and Coutinho’s agent escalated rumours by claiming earlier this month that he “would love” to play in the Premier League again.
Coutinho could now return to England thanks to Bayern Munich not activating a €120m (£105m) option to buy him at the end of his loan spell in Bavaria.
And according to Spanish outlet Sport, once Chelsea learned of this, they contacted Barcelona to begin negotiations for a fee.
The report adds that Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is assembling a squad for the 2020-21 season which will be able to compete with Liverpool and Manchester City at the Premier League’s summit.
However, it is expected that negotiations could be drawn out as the clubs thrash out a fee for Coutinho.
Barcelona are loath to let the playmaker leave the club for a huge amount less than they paid two years ago and are aiming to sell for no less than €90m (£79m).
Meanwhile, Chelsea are unwilling to spend that much on the player and believe they can bargain for a lower fee based on Coutinho’s desire to return to the Premier League and Barcelona’s need to raise funds for their summer transfers.
The Catalan club are reportedly planning a busy window in which they will bring Neymar back to the club from Paris Saint-Germain and sign Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez.