Chelsea have been tipped to battle with Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur to complete a permanent deal for Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who it is claimed will not be returning to Real Madrid after his season-long loan at Stamford Bridge.
Unable to command a regular place with Real, Kovacic temporarily moved to London off the back of helping Croatia reach the World Cup final during the summer.
Spanish publication AS rated the chances of Kovacic returning to the Bernabeu at the end of the season as 'practically none', claiming that Los Blancos remain unhappy with the behaviour that forced his exit in August and would rather sell than have him back.
It is noted that the 24-year-old, who also previously played for Inter, is open to the idea of staying with Chelsea beyond his loan and Real have been tipped to ask for more than the €30m they paid to sign Kovacic back in 2015.
AS also claims that relations between Chelsea and Real are strong, pointing to the recent transfers of Alvaro Morata and Thibaut Courtois as supposed evidence. Whether that will remain the case in light of Real's alleged pursuit of Eden Hazard is yet to be seen.
But it is not only Chelsea who might want Kovacic, as AS insists that Tottenham are also interested and will 'push' to secure a deal of their own.
Although not a regular starter and yet to complete a full 90 minutes in the Premier League so far, Kovacic's performance led The Independent to declare in October that the Croatian might 'quietly be the signing of the season', citing his 'unique skillset' in an unorthodox system.
Kovacic was left out of the starting lineup as Chelsea were surprisingly beaten by Wolves on Wednesday night, and will be hoping that changes to the losing team sees him restored when Premier League leaders Manchester City visit Stamford Bridge at the weekend.