Chelsea have reportedly entered the race for Ross Barkley with a "serious" intent on scuppering Tottenham's supposed move for the wantaway star.
That is according to the Liverpool Echo, which has reported that Antonio Conte's title holders want to prise Barkley away from Goodison Park ahead of their London rivals.
Barkley is on his way out of Everton after he told manager Ronald Koeman he would not pen a new deal as he seeks out a new challenge, and that stance has alerted Chelsea to his availability.
Conte is thought to be keen on boosting the number of homegrown players within his senior ranks following a number of foreign acquistions in the transfer market so far this summer, and the Italian wants to balance out his squad with players born in the UK.
Barkley, who has less than 12 months to run on his contract, is seen as a key target by the Italian and the Blues will look to poach him ahead of Premier League rivals Tottenham.
Spurs had been installed as firm favourites to secure Barkley's signature even before Koeman's revelation last Wednesday, but the Lilywhites have baulked at the playmaker's reported £120,000-a-week salary demands.
Seems pretty obvious that we're using the media in trying to force Spurs's hand. I'll eat my hat if he goes anywhere other than Spurs.— Dixie (@running_good) August 2, 2017
That has allowed Chelsea to squeeze into the race to lure him to Stamford Bridge, although Conte will have to fork out around £35m to convince Everton to greenlight personal talks with Barkley and his agent.
With the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United for a fee worth around £40m, Conte has freed up space in his squad and overall wage budget and could now decide to move for Barkley.
Barkley's relationship with Koeman was up and down during the Dutchman's first season at the helm on Merseyside.
The ex-Southampton manager tried every trick in the book to coax the England international's best form out of him, but Barkley struggled to adapt to Koeman's preferred playing style and was criticised at times for his lack of end product.
The attacking midfielder is now in search of a new club to join after confirming his desire to leave, and Spurs and Chelsea are likely to be joined in their pursuit of him by Arsenal after the Gunners' tentative links to the Blues' youth product.