Chelsea are ready to match any bid made for Everton star Ross Barkley as interest in the 20-year-old continues to grow, reports Goal.
Various reports have claimed that Manchester City are preparing to make a big-money move for Barkley in the January transfer window. Manuel Pellegrini is determined to boost the number of homegrown players in his squad and wants to tempt Everton into a sale.
However, Jose Mourinho remains very interested in the attacking midfielder and Chelsea remain in close contact with Everton regarding a future deal. The Blues are determined to rival Manchester City should the Toffees agree a fee.
The homegrown rule, combined with his massive talent, has helped elevate Barkley's asking price to an incredible £50 million. Interest from Manchester United earlier this summer has also inflated his perceived value.
Louis van Gaal did look into signing Barkley prior to the World Cup but instead chose to chase other, more established stars. With the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and James Wilson in the squad, Manchester United are not as desperate for homegrown players as their rivals.
After allowing Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell to leave the Etihad this summer, Manchester City's number of homegrown players is at an all-time low. They currently have just two homegrown players included in their squad.
Chelsea do not fare much better with only three. Those unimpressive numbers have helped to generate interest in Barkley, who is considered one of the brightest prospects in English football.
Together with their mega-rich benefactors, Chelsea and Manchester City are now considered the frontrunners to seal Barkley's signature when, inevitably, he does depart Goodison Park.
Whether that is in January or the summer is very much down to the finances of both clubs. If they have both spent their budgets for the season, they are unlikely to be able to meet the £50 million demand.
There would also be a reluctance from Everton to sell a star player in the middle of the season when a replacement would be harder to come by. That may lead to a further increase in the asking price.
However, leaving it to the summer will invite competition from other clubs. Manchester United have the financial clout to rival any bid while a terrific second half to the season for the currently injured Barkley could attract interest from abroad.
Liverpool have also been linked with a move for the player this week, but their involvement in the bidding war may be directly linked to whether they can again qualify for the Champions League.