Real Madrid are reportedly on the verge of securing the services of Zhang Linpeng from Guangzhou Evergrande ahead of the January transfer window.
But Chelsea were heavily linked with a move for the Chinese defender in the last days of the summer transfer window after The Telegraph reported the Premier League champions intended to sign him before immediately loaning out for the season.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in the market to bolster his backline and made a number of attempts to sign Everton youngster John Stones during the summer. However, the club complete the signings of Senegal defender Papy Djilobodji and Michael Hector on deadline day, although the latter was automatically sent back on loan to Reading until the end of the campaign.
Linpeng, the 26-year-old versatile defender dubbed the Chinese Sergio Ramos, confirmed to Chinese newspaper Titan that he hoped to complete a move to the Premier League before the end of the transfer window. "I am very happy and very excited to finally have this formal invitation," Zhang is quoted as saying by Titan. "I have worked hard and waited five or six years for my dream of playing overseas, and finally have recognition from the English Premier League."
But club officials later claimed it was going to be difficult for the Blues to complete the deal due to paperwork required to work in England. An Evergrande official told Xinhua: "We did receive an offer from Chelsea, [to] which we have attached great importance.
"But we will not continue to talk with Chelsea unless the English club make a guarantee on Zhang's playing time. We learned the fact that Zhang could not play for Chelsea at the first place, because he could not get a working permit in England."
And it looks like Real Madrid have taken advantage of his problems to move to Stamford Bridge to win the race for his services. Spanish newspaper AS credited the Chinese government TV channel CCTV5 as saying that Los Blancos have already reached an agreement with Guangzhou Evergrande to get his services in January.
The Spanish publication points out Linpeng was in talks with Chelsea during the summer transfer window but in the end he "has chosen" Real Madrid.