CHELSEA look to be winning the battle to secure the services of Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez in January – a move which will likely mean current Blues stars leaving the club.
That could reignite Ernesto Valverde’s interest in Willian, who was the subject of a transfer bid by the Catalan side in the summer.
Getty Images – Getty3 Barcelona's Denis Suarez is a reported transfer target for Chelsea
According to reports, Suarez will be allowed to leave the Camp Nou in the new year – but Barcelona are said to prefer a permanent deal to a loan move.
That puts Chelsea in the driving seat over fellow suitors AC Milan, who have spoken to the Blaugrana about taking the player on loan with an option to buy him outright at a later date.
Maurizio Sarri is a long-term admirer of the young Spaniard, whose ability to make passes in tight spaces brought him to the Chelsea manager's attention during his time at Napoli.
The 24-year-old is an attacking midfielder who very much fits the profile of a ‘Sarriball’ player, but is not a straight swap for Willian, who usually plays in a wider position and drifts inside.
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Reuters3 The arrival of Suarez could hasten the exit of Willian from Stamford Bridge
But the arrival of Suarez could certainly hasten the departure of the Brazilian, who at the age of 30 is unlikely to be offered a new contract at Stamford Bridge – especially if Sarri gets his stated wish of holding onto Cesc Fabregas.
Suarez was on the books of Manchester City at the start of his senior career, but only made two cup competition appearances for the club in two seasons.
He was bought by Barcelona in 2013 but was loaned out to Sevilla the following year after failing to make a first team start for the Spanish champions.
EPA3 Suarez, right, has struggled to make the Barcelona starting XI this season
He is a former mainstay of Spain’s U21 team, and made his senior debut for the national side in 2016 against Bosnia, as a substitute for David Silva.
Since returning to Barcelona from Villareal in 2015, Suarez has struggled to find a spot in their starting XI, playing just twice for the Catalans this season and not featuring at all in La Liga.
An injury to Rafinha could have provided an opportunity for the player, but he has found it hard to displace Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal – seemingly even falling behind new starlet Carles Alena in Ernesto Valverde’s pecking order.