Chelsea are reportedly keeping tabs on Newcastle United skipper Jamaal Lascelles ahead of a potential summer move but the 24-year-old's future could depend on whether Rafael Benitez remains at St James' Park.
Antonio Conte's side are looking to freshen up their central defensive options ahead of next season and have earmarked Lascelles, a crucial part of the Magpies' bid to stave off relegation, as a potential summer signing, according to The Evening Standard.
With Gary Cahill approaching his 33rd birthday and the out-of-favour David Luiz also the wrong side of 30, Chelsea are looking to sign a younger defender as they look to decrease the average age of their first-team squad.
The Premier League champions have added homegrown talent in the form of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley in recent months, but a deal for Lascelles, who recently penned a six-year, £50,000-a-week contract with Newcastle, could depend on the future of Benitez.
Former Nottingham Forest centre-back Lascelles was made captain by Benitez soon after the Spaniard took the reins in the north east and is enjoying life under the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss.
Benitez's own future is far from certain, though. His frustration with the Newcastle hierarchy and a distinct lack of transfer funds is evident, and he may well decide to walk away from the troubled Geordies if a proposed takeover does not materialise, the report adds.
Chelsea's chances of prying Lascelles away from Newcastle would be enhanced if their former boss decides to call it quits at the end of the season, but the Magpies are not willing to entertain offers for their prized captain, who is seen to be on the cusp of the senior England set-up, regardless of what happens with Benitez in the summer.
Lascelles could be tempted by a move to west London in the summer, especially if Newcastle suffer relegation for the second time in three seasons, but his immediate focus will be on ensuring that doesn't happen when he leads his side out to face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday (20 February) - a win could see Benitez's side go five points clear of the relegation zone.