Manchester City have joined the race to sign Arsenal and Liverpool target Eden Hazard, but Chelsea are the club closest to signing the talented winger, according to Lille director Jean-Michel Vandamme.
The 20-year-old Belgian international was in UEFA Champions League action last night, as the Ligue 1 outfit went down 1-0 to Inter Milan, leaving them bottom of qualifying Group B.
Manchester City's Football Development Executive Patrick Vieira was in the crowd at Stade Velodrome casting his eye over Hazard last night, as the former Arsenal midfielder was tasked with returning a detailed scouting report on the promising starlet.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is a known admirer of Hazard, with reports suggesting he tried to bring him to the Emirates Stadium in the summer window, when Arsenal made an uncharacteristic foray into the transfer market.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was also credited with an interest in the sought-after winger, but having made seven signings of his own, the Anfield boss chose not to pursue his interest further.
That's not to say that either Liverpool or Arsenal won't renew interest in January, but Lille academy director indicated that Hazard's suitors may have to wait until next summer, before revealing that Chelsea were the favourites for his signature.
"Eden is certainly willing to stay at Lille at least until next summer," said Vandamme. "Here is his home, this is his garden, [but] Chelsea has been following him the closest."
Since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in June, Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas has sent scouts to keep track of a number of potential targets as he looks to evolve an ageing Chelsea squad over the next few years.
"The Spaniards have not manifested themselves yet, but I think they are playing it smart and will call when they know they have to," Vandamme added. "I'm talking about Real, but also about Barcelona.
"The buyer will have to come up with a lot of money - let us say he is not currently to go for less than forty million."