Jose Mourinho is ready to axe either Petr Cech or John Obi Mikel to make room for Manchester United target Mehdi Benatia in his Chelsea squad, with the prospective £30 million signing set to exceed the club's maximum of 17 non home grown players over the age of 21.
The Daily Star reports how the Morocco international is being eyed as a replacement for David Luiz, but the Blues boss must sacrifice one of his existing foreign stars to adhere to Premier League regulations.
Mourinho sold Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain in a mouthwatering £50 million deal this summer, and despite welcoming France U21 international Kurt Zouma back to Stamford Bridge is yet to fully replace the Brazilian ahead of the new season.
John Terry and Gary Cahill are currently Chelsea's first choice central defensive pairing, but Benatia's arrival will be a huge statement of intent from the west London club in their attempt to reclaim the domestic title in 2014/15.
The acquisition of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba means Chelsea now have one of the best squads in the country, and Mourinho will be looking to make up for the trophy-less season he endured during the previous campaign - the first of his second stint as manager.
Man United interest
Benatia has also been courted by title rivals Manchester United, as new Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal looks to strengthen his central defensive department at Old Trafford.
The Dutchman had hoped to lure the AS Roma centre-back, but could now be beaten to the 27-year-old's signature by Chelsea, providing they can get rid of one of Cech or Mikel.
Veteran goalkeeper Cech's future has been the subject of widespread speculation all summer following the return of Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian stopper is expected to replace the 32-year-old between the sticks this season, prompting rumours of a possible exit before the close of the transfer window.
Real Madrid, PSG and AS Monaco have all been mooted as admirers of the Czech Republic international, but must be willing to meet Chelsea's £18 million valuation if they are to secure his services.
Mikel, meanwhile, has fallen further and further down the first-team pecking order in west London, and is also free to leave Chelsea after eight successful years at the club.
Inter Milan have been credited with an interest in the Nigeria international, but are so far yet to firm up their plans to bid for the 27-year-old midfielder.
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