Chelsea appear to have the upper hand in the race to sign Manuel Ugarte from Sporting Lisbon with the player reportedly favouring a move to the Premier League.
The 22-year-old midfielder looks set to leave Lisbon in the coming weeks with super-agent Jorge Mendes working on securing a transfer.
Paris Saint-Germain have been laying the groundwork for a while and are ready to meet Ugarte’s €60m (£52m) release clause, though they are hoping to structure the deal in instalments rather than one up-front fee.
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But the Ligue 1 champions face competition for the Uruguayan’s signature, with Chelsea ready to match their offer with a similarly structured deal.
There is still potential for other teams to join the race, with Liverpool interested in the midfielder too, but it is now starting to look like a straight shootout between Chelsea and PSG.
That could bode well for the Blues, with Portuguese newspaper Record reporting that Ugarte’s preference would be a move to West London club over the Parc des Princes.
While the defensive midfielder is open to moving to Paris and appreciates the interest, it has been his dream to play in the Premier League.
A number of Uruguay’s most celebrated players have played in England, going back to Gus Poyet over two decades ago to the likes of Luis Suarez and Cavani more recently.
Ugarte believes the Premier League represents a better challenge from a sporting perspective, though he will listen to offers from all interested teams before making a decision.
The terms being offered will play a huge role in his thought process too and Chelsea could be trumped by PSG in this respect, with the west London club preferring to offer smaller wages but longer deals.
Although Chelsea are the only Premier League club to solidify their interest in Ugarte thus far, Liverpool could still make a rival offer while Tottenham, Newcastle and Aston Villa are also believed to be keen.
At a press conference on Thursday, Sporting manager Ruben Amorim admitted it would be ‘difficult to keep’ a player of Ugarte’s quality and appears resigned to losing him.
Ugarte has been scouted by a host of European giants this campaign, with the Uruguayan star having some phenomenal numbers.
He leads the Portuguese league for successful tackles, making 121 so far, while he also has the most interceptions (57) in the division.