Chelsea are ready to rival Manchester United for the signature of AS Roma star Kevin Strootman, reports the Daily Star.
The Dutchman has recently returned from a serious knee injury and has immediately been linked with a move away from Rome. Louis van Gaal is believed to be a firm favourite of Strootman after he built his Holland team around the towering defensive midfielder.
Now Van Gaal wants to bring the 24-year-old to Old Trafford to build Manchester United around him in a similar fashion. Strootman was also reportedly keen to link up with Van Gaal at the Premier League club.
A bid in the region of £30 million was being prepared by Manchester United officials ahead of the January transfer window, according to the same report, in what looked to be a straightforward transfer for the Red Devils.
However, Jose Mourinho is now ready to throw a blue cat amongst red pigeons by launching his own bid to sign the midfield powerhouse. The Chelsea boss has seen Nemanja Matic flourish since arriving at Stamford Bridge in January, but his absence in the game against Newcastle United proved crucial.
Chelsea suffered their first defeat in the Premier League this season to the Toon army and it appears the Blues boss is now looking for some substantial back up for the Serbian. Strootman, who is cut from the same cloth as Matic when it comes to footballing styles, appears to be top of Mourinho's wish list.
Strong relationship v trophies
That will come as a huge blow to Van Gaal, who will now have to combat a major Premier League rival for a key signing. Chelsea have a greater chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season and are expected to win more major honours than a transitional Manchester United in the next few seasons.
However, Strootman's strong relationship with Van Gaal will be a significant advantage to Manchester United. While working with Mourinho is an opportunity few would turn down, Van Gaal will certainly use his history with Strootman to make sure he ends up at Old Trafford.