Chelsea are reportedly weighing up Real Madrid left-back Fabio Coentrao as a potential replacement for veteran Ashley Cole, who may leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.
The England international's contract runs out in the summer and the former Arsenal man is understood to be ready to move on if the Blues do not offer him more than a one-year extension. Interim manager Rafael Benitez earlier admitted that Cole, who turns 32 this week, was likely to leave the club in the summer. However, the Spanish tactician has since backtracked on those comments.
Meanwhile, Coentrao has fallen down the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabeu and has made only five appearances in La Liga this season. In addition, it is believed the Portugal international, who had a brilliant European Championships campaign in the summer, has fallen out with compatriot and Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho.
The 24-year-old has now emerged as a top contender in Chelsea's list of replacements for Cole, according to the Daily Star. The report also claims the Blues will have to shell out at least £12m for the defender, as Madrid look to recoup some of the £20m they paid Portuguese club Benfica in 2011.
Coentrao's contract with the La Liga champions runs until 2017 but the Spanish outfit are open to selling a few players to help raise funds for the summer. The Portuguese is one of several names likely to be on the list.
"If an interesting offer comes in, we will consider it," the report quoted a Madrid source as saying.
Incidentally, Madrid's first choice left-back Marcelo was also reported as a target for Roman Abramovich, with the Daily Star reporting that the Spanish club would offload the Brazilian to make room for the arrival of Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Can Bertrand be Trusted?
Chelsea do have youngster Ryan Bertrand to play at left-back but the European champions are reportedly unsure about the 23-year-old's defensive capabilities and view him more as a long-term winger than defender.
Benitez Confident of Title Challenge
Finally, Benitez has insisted Chelsea remain capable of winning the Premier League this season. The Blues are third in the Premier League, 13 points behind leaders Manchester United; the London club does have a game in hand though.
"People have asked me questions about whether it's a two-horse race between the two Manchester clubs. But realistically, with three points for a game, if you win two or three in a row you have more confidence," Sky Sports quoted the former Liverpool manager as saying.
"How many games? I don't know. Others can do that, too. But after three or four wins in a row, the confidence can be high. So why not? At Liverpool, we had 11 games, drew against Arsenal and won the other 10. So why can't we do the same here?" Benitez asked.