Chelsea are lining up a switch for Everton midfielder Ross Barkley should Juan Mata complete his switch to Manchester United.
The Spaniard is set to complete his switch to Old Trafford following a medical, leaving the door open for Jose Mourinho to bolster his midfield options.
And the 20-year-old, Liverpool-born midfielder fits the bill for a move to Stamford Bridge—young, hungry and a name on the lips of pundits across the country.
However, according to The Telegraph's Matt Law, the Toffees' youngster won't be joining Chelsea any time soon and is set to be a long-term capture for the Premier League title challengers:
“Even though a deal for Mata should be completed quickly, there is little chance of Chelsea immediately using the money to sign Barkley, who is out injured with a broken toe.
“Chelsea’s intention is to launch a big bid for midfielder Barkley in the summer and allowing Mata to go to United could aid that process.”
Law also believes that the good relationship between Chelsea and Everton could ease any potential transfer—and snare former Everton boss David Moyes' chances of landing Barkley in Manchester:
“Chelsea have a close relationship with Everton, having sent striker Romelu Lukaku on loan to Goodison Park. Chairman Bruce Buck and technical director Michael Emenalo met Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in London recently, although the exact reason for the high-powered get-together is not known.
“What is clear is that Chelsea have earmarked Barkley as a key target and Mata’s departure will free up cash and space in Mourinho’s squad to try to get him.”
However, Everton boss Roberto Martinez may not be too keen on letting the England youngster go, having stated in an interview with Daily Mail's Matt Lawton that Barkley was the most impressive English talent that he'd ever seen:
“What impresses me is the mentality. You can talk about talent, about physicality. He has the physical elements of the British game. The intensity and the power. But Ross also has the touch of someone brought up in a different culture.
And Martinez stated his belief that Barkley was breaking the mould on the English footballer stereotype—a player who was more concentrated on the pitch, than off of it:
“You’ve got a cool character; such an emotionally stable character. And that is what sets him apart.
“Whether he is playing for England at Wembley, or the opening game of the season against Norwich, or a friendly behind closed doors, his approach will be the same.
“And it’s the same after someone has kicked him or he has made a good pass. Only the top guys are like this.
“Nothing fazes Ross. That temperament, I’m not sure we’ve seen that too often over the years.”
Chelsea are in pole position to sign Barkley.
However, with Manchester United hot on their heels, any move for him will be dependent not only on both sides' respective league placings at the end of the season, but also how both managers have spent previously.
Mourinho moved quickly after sealing his return to Stamford Bridge, signing Willian and Marco van Ginkel—adding to Andre Schurrle's arrival two days before Jose's return.
And respectively, David Moyes signed Marouane Fellaini from Everton—a decision that has caused split opinion amongst Red Devils' supporters.
Of course, both clubs are known to have large cash war chests when it comes to transfers and Chelsea, notoriously, are known to be willing to spend what is necessary to land their transfer targets—and that's a trait that Everton bosses can use to their advantage.
But although his destination is unknown, whatever club signs Ross Barkley will be signing an excellent prospect for the future.
In 21 league appearances this season, Barkley has netted four goals after being handed his first-team chance by Martinez.
And since then, he has gone on to make his mark on the national side, coming on as a substitute for Jack Wilshere during England's 4-0 World Cup qualifier against Moldova in August.
The rise of Ross Barkley has been immeasurable since the start of the season, and at the rate he's going, it won't be just Chelsea chiefs that will be interested in his signature.
It's not often that an English player can dribble, score and pass with either foot and looks comfortable in all situations. It's rare to find one at just 20 years of age.
It's unheard of that they stay out of a title-challenging side for long.