Chelsea ‘hijack’ Man Utd transfer but face £87m bill as swap rejected | Football | Sport

Chelsea are reportedly eyeing a move for Manchester United transfer target Antonio Silva and have already had a swap deal turned down. The Benfica centre-back is said to be at the top of the Blues’ list of targets, as Mauricio Pochettino hopes to bolster his defensive options this month.

The Sun claim that Chelsea are pursuing Silva and see the 20-year-old as a future building block at the back. They watched him in Benfica’s 3-0 win over Famalicao on Friday and have been scouting him for several weeks, but United also view him as a target under Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Chelsea are hoping to beat United and Liverpool to the signing of Silva, however, and have already opened talks with the Portuguese club. They have made an offer of £52million and Armando Broja, which was rejected, with the Blues instead being told that they must pay his £87m release clause to prise him away.

The Portugal international has three-and-a-half years left on his Benfica contract, putting them in a strong position in the January window to force Chelsea into paying another mouth-watering fee after their £1billion-plus transfer spend since Todd Boehly and co arrived at Stamford Bridge.

Benfica boss Roger Schmidt similarly warned off potential suitors by saying the club’s release clause must be triggered in order for a deal to take place. “I talk to them every day, all of them,” he told a press conference when asked about Silva and midfielder Joao Neves.

“We’re in the middle of the season, we have big goals with Benfica. Of course we’re not going to let these players leave, we need them and they don’t want to leave. There’s no question about that.”

Chelsea’s Financial Fair Play situation may force them to get creative to avoid paying Silva’s £87m fee in one lump sum, however. They have previously negotiated a higher fee than a player’s release clause, so that they can spread those payments out across several years – which enabled them to land Enzo Fernandez from Sporting in a then-British record transfer.

Pochettino’s side have conceded 31 goals in 20 Premier League games as they languish 10th in the table. Despite recent additions in the form of Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile and Wesley Fofana they believe that more improvements are necessary at the back.

Thiago Silva at 39 has started all but two of Chelsea’s league games this season and continues to be relied upon but the club are aware that he may quit them at the end of the campaign and his namesake replacement could cost as much as £87m.

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