Real Betis have reportedly stepped up negotiations with Chelsea to loan Mario Pasalic ahead of the 2017-18 campaign. Leeds United, Lazio, Valencia and Spartak Moscow have also been linked with the Croatian international in recent weeks, but Estadio Deportivo reports that his move to the Andalucian outfit "is now closer than ever".

Pasalic, 22, joined Chelsea from Hajduk Split in the summer of 2014 as a prospect for the future. However, the midfielder has since failed to make a single appearance for the Premier League champions, having instead spent the last three campaigns on loan at Elche, Monaco and AC Milan.

Earlier in June, Marko Naletilic told local publication Estadio Deportivo that Betis had made an approach to take the Chelsea midfielder to La Liga following his latest successful spell at Milan, where he scored five goals in 27 games.

"I can only say that there are a lot of clubs interested in Pasalic, of which Betis is one," he said. "Betis are an important club in Spain and Europe, for whom I have great respect."

However, negotiations with Betis appeared to cool in recent weeks after it emerged that Leeds, Lazio, Valencia and Spartak had also joined the race to secure his services.

As a result, Estadio Deportivo claims that Betis' pursuit looked to be over. However, it is now back on and "closer than ever" following a new turnaround in the saga.

The Andalucian publication claims that Betis have stepped up negotiations with both Chelsea and Pasalic's agent in order to complete a loan deal that includes the option for a permanent transfer next summer.

Lazio were reportedly negotiating a €10m (£8.9m, $11.5m) fee with Chelsea for the option to buy and were also willing to pay around €1m for a season-long loan. However, Estadio Deportivo understands that the Italian side have ended their interest after signing Lucas Leiva from Liverpool.

Spartak are still reportedly interested, but Estadio Deportivo believes that Betis are in a good position to win the race with Pasalic keen to return to Spain following his previous spell at Elche.

One way or another they say that Pasalic will need to sign a renewal with Chelsea before completing a move somewhere else as his current contract at Stamford Bridge is due to expire at the end of next season.

Mario Pasalic
Mario Pasalic spent last season on loan at AC Milan Getty