Chelsea appear to be plotting a rather sensational move for Everton and England midfielder Ross Barkley following the imminent departure of Juan Mata, reports suggest.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Blues' decision to allow Mata to join Manchester United is part of a long-term plan to sign Barkley during the summer.
Chelsea, who recorded an emphatic 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon thanks to a hat-trick from striker Samuel Eto'o, are reportedly in talks with their rivals over a move for Mata - with the latest news suggesting that the Red Devils had seen a bid for his services accepted.
Mata, who became somewhat of a fan's favourite at Stamford Bridge after moving to Chelsea in 2011, has been one of the club's top performers over recent seasons but has found himself largely surplus to requirements since Jose Mourinho returned to the club for his second stint in charge during the summer.
Though such a move has clearly divided opinion among supporters, the potential future capture of Barkley would surely go some way to appeasing those who have failed to understand Mata's sale.
The 20-year-old, who has endured fairly tame loan spells with the likes of Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, has burst onto the first-team scene this season with a number of exciting and mature displays for Everton under Roberto Martinez.
Pundits and supporters alike have evidently been wowed by just how quickly Barkley has found his feet as a regular at Goodison Park and Manchester United - who are of course now managed by former Everton boss David Moyes - were linked with an audacious move of £50 million for his services shortly prior to the opening of the January transfer window.
Whether Manchester United will still intend to move for Barkley after they complete a deal for Mata, remains unclear. While it may seem unlikely that they would spend such a sum on another attack-minded midfielder, Moyes obviously has connections with Barkley and, given their wretched 2013/14 campaign to date, it surely wouldn't be too much of a shock to see him seek to strengthen further.