Chelsea have reportedly agreed a fee of £29m with Premier League champions Leicester for France international N’Golo Kante, although other sources claim the Foxes are in the process of offering their star midfielder a bumper contract to see off the advances of the top flights elite clubs.
Kante made it all the way from Ligue 1 mid-table obscurity with Caen to playing a worthy role in his country’s run to the Euro 2016 final over the past 12 months, via Claudio Ranieri’s side’s barely believable title triumph last term.
Manchester United and Arsenal have also been linked with the holding-midfield maestro since the end of the season, with rumours the former were investigating a potential £22m buyout clause in Kante’s contract back in May.
They may be starting to wish they’d got on with it, as United’s midfield in particular badly needs major surgery, which new boss Jose Mourinho will surely insist upon.
After missing out on a place in Didier Deschamps’ Les Bleus squad to Kante following a patchy first season at Old Trafford, Morgan Schneiderlin is already being mentioned as a potential target for Everton, and Mourinho will require more than veterans Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Gunners are another side perpetually underserved in the position, and while the big-money capture of 22-year-old Switzerland international Granit Xhaka looks a step in the right direction from Arsene Wenger, too much will once again be expected of Francis Coquelin, and now Mohamed Elneny.
Losing out on Kante to a potential title rival, which Chelsea clearly are at 6/1 with bwin, would certainly be a blow considering the lack of battle-ready anchormen on the market, a factor the champions are clearly aware of given their rumoured rush to offer the 25-year-old fresh terms.
There’s also talk of a potential £35m bid from Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG torpedoing the whole process, but it should take an awful lot of money to tempt Kante away from his first Champions League nights.
United are 7/2 second-favourites to add a 14th Premier League crown behind neighbours Manchester City at 9/4 and Arsenal 6/1.