Chelsea are poised to complete the £30 million signing of AS Roma defender Mehdi Benatia - and manager Jose Mourinho wants the deal finalised in the coming days in order for the Morocco international to be eligible to feature in the Blues’ Premier League opener against newly-promoted Burnley on Monday night.
This news has been obtained by the Daily Star - and brought to our attention by the Metro - who understand that Benatia is now almost certain to join Chelsea despite the firm interest of Manchester United.
Benatia: Chelsea’s sixth summer signing?
Benatia, who is widely considered one of the best central defenders in Serie A, is poised to become Chelsea’s sixth summer signing, following the arrivals of Diego Costa, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Mario Pasalic.
If the deal goes through at £30 million, Mourinho will have spent a total of £112 million on new signings this summer.
However, the asking price could prove a stumbling block, with AS Roma’s director of football Walter Sabatini stating this week that any interested club would need to pay a cool £49.6 million to sign Benatia before the transfer window closes on September 2.
Do Chelsea need Benatia?
Mourinho recently insisted that no more players would be coming to Stamford Bridge this summer, but the Portuguese coach is keen to strengthen his defence with the addition of the world-class Benatia ahead of another gruelling season.
It’s imperative that Mourinho secures at least one major trophy this season after finishing last term - his first campaign in his second spell back at Stamford Bridge - empty handed.
But Benatia’s arrival would be bad news for either Gary Cahill, youngster Kurt Zouma or club-captain John Terry.
Cahill and Terry struck up on excellent central defensive partnership last season, but Benatia would be a significant upgrade on either of the English centre-backs. Zouma, meanwhile, could be loaned out for the season if the north African puts pen-to-paper on a lucrative deal with the Blues.
Watch: Mehdi Benatia scout report
Blow for AS Roma
AS Roma boss Rudi Garcia recently stated that he is under no pressure to sell Benatia, despite the interest from Premier League giants United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
"I believe Mehdi has four more years of his contract with us,” the French coach told Sport Mediaset. “He is an AS Roma player and I want people to stop talking about his future."
However, it appears that Garcia will need to start planning for life without Benatia if these latest reports prove accurate.