FC Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele is close to joining Chelsea following a meeting with their head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Dembele, who arrived in Catalonia from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 as part of a €105mn ($109mn) deal, is a free man on June 30.
After he rejected several of their contract renewal offers, though, Barcelona expect him to end his five-year tenure at the Camp Nou this summer and walk to a European rival.
Paris Saint Germain were previously believed to be the front runner for his signature, with rumors emerging that fellow World Cup winner and Les Bleus teammate Kylian Mbappe had requested his presence at the Parc des Princes after turning down Real Madrid and extending terms with the Ligue 1 giants until 2025.
According to SPORT on Tuesday, however, Dembele looks closest to signing for Premier
BarcaTimes reporter Shay Lugassi said that the German, who Dembele considers as something of a father figure, explained Dembele’s potential role in the west London team amid competition from other forwards such as Christian Pulic and Hakim Ziyech.
Chelsea also tried to sign Dembele in the previous transfer window last winter, but were unwilling to pay Barca what they wanted for a player who can be landed free of charge in just over a fortnight.
Barca have been preparing for life-after-Dembele for some time despite coach Xavi Hernandez’s best efforts to keep him as part of the group.
Against the wishes of fans who wanted Dembele sent to the stands to watch the rest of the season when he rejected Barca’s proposals at the turn of the year, Xavi decided to put trust in his charge and extracted top form from ‘the Mosquito’ that saw him challenge the likes of Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi as the top provider of assists in Europe.
The Blaugrana fancy Leeds United and Brazil star Raphinha to replace Dembele on the right wing, but ex-PSG attacker Angel Di Maria, who will soon leave PSG for free, is another alternative being considered.
Expected to head the other way from Chelsea to Barcelona in the near future is Denmark defender Andreas Christensen.