Chelsea are considering a move in signing Southampton star defender Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window. Antonio Conte has set his sights on bolstering his defence with the Netherlands international.
According to The Times, the Blues will rival Manchester United in signing the centre-back as both teams look to bolster their central defending position. The west London club play with three men at the back and the Italian manager is already looking for a replacement for club captain John Terry.
Van Dijk moved to St Mary's Stadium from Celtic in 2015 and has been a regular inclusion in the starting lineup in his debut season. Claude Puel replaced Ronald Koeman as the latter took the vacant job at Everton.
Under Puel, Van Dijk has impressed and has been a key player for the Saints. His form has seen him attract interest from top Premier League clubs who are planning for an approach when the transfer window opens next month.
Jose Mourinho is also looking at the option of bringing in a central defender in January to further strengthen United's defence for the second half of the season. Conte will want his side to challenge the Red Devils in their efforts to sign the Southampton captain.
Chelsea and United are not the only club interested in Van Dijk. The Mirror reports Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to challenge these two clubs in signing the defender, who is valued at £40m ($50.3m).
The 25-year-old signed a new six-year deal with his current employers earlier in May. Any approach for the top Premier League clubs will force them to spend big in landing him in January.
Southampton will not let Van Dijk leave for cheap and the asking price should not be an issue for Chelsea, United and City.
Meanwhile, the Saints have been knocked out of the Europa League following their 1-1 draw to Hapoel Be'er Sheva at home. Van Dijk has expressed his frustration following Southampton's exit from Europe's second tier club competition.
"I'm very disappointed – I feel s*** to be honest with you. We need to do much better, especially in the first half," Van Dijk said, as quoted by FourFourTwo.
"We knew how they were going to play — we needed to do much better especially with chances we had, and every time they broke on us it was a bit dangerous. We needed to get our organisation right instead of always attacking. That's something we need to talk about.
"We just need to focus on the league the most now. The EFL Cup is special, but with the current group we can do something beautiful in the league. But we need to be clinical and not concede stupid goals like we did."