Newcastle have reportedly won the race to sign Saint-Etienne's defender Kurt Zouma despite reports last week suggesting that Chelsea were close to agreeing deal for the young centre-back.
Zouma is currently serving a 10-game ban after breaking the leg of Sochaux's Thomas Guerbert but he is considered one of the best young defenders in Europe. He has represented France at every level up to under-21 and last summer he led his country to a victory in the Under-20 World Cup.
With David Luiz's future uncertain Chelsea are looking for a long term replacement for 33-year-old John Terry and reports claimed that the 19-year-old defender has become Jose Mourinho's priority target after the club sealed a deal for Nemanja Matic last week.
However, according to The Independent Newcastle are now leading the race to sign Zouma as they can offer a better chance of first team football.
The reports add that the number of French speakers that manager Alan Pardew have brought to the club lately may play a key role in the proposed deal, despite Manchester United and Arsenal also monitoring the situation.
Zouma recently claimed that he was keen on playing for Chelsea and revealed that Mourinho made a personal approach to sign him.
"If you tell me to go to Chelsea, I'll go there immediately!" Zouma said earleir this month.
"Especially after the call from the coach [Mourinho]. It's given me ideas. There was advanced contact last month. At the start I thought it was a joke but afterwards I quickly took the call seriously."
Despite speculation regarding a January move Saint-Etienne's vice president Dominique Rocheteau recently denied any offers and claimed that they are not willing to sell Zouma in this transfer window.
"It's true, many clubs are watching, it was the case last season, many foreign clubs came to see [him]. But today, there's no [chance] he leaves in the winter transfer window. He will remain with us until the end of the season," he told beIN Sport.
"Yes, we will not hide the fact that it came out in the press that Chelsea are actually interested in him."
Zouma's current contract with the French club runs out in 2017 but Rocheteau suggested that they will negotiate a deal next summer if any club launches a €20m bid.
"We have not received any concrete offers. [Is he worth] €20m? You be the judge of that. Now, that is today's market price."