LONDON • Chelsea are willing to let Cesc Fabregas go out on loan in January and may even subsidise his wages to give Antonio Conte the best chance of bringing in another midfielder.
The former Arsenal star has started only one English Premier League match this season - being substituted after 55 minutes of Chelsea's 3-0 defeat by his former team before picking up a thigh injury in training last month.
The Spain international has little prospect of being given extended game time, particularly since Conte switched to a 3-4-3 system after that defeat at the Emirates Stadium five weeks ago.
Fabregas is Chelsea's third-highest earner, after Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, on wages of £160,000 (S$272,060) a week, which the club have concluded is an unjustifiable outlay on a player Conte regards as an impact substitute.
With 21/2 years left on his contract and his wages prohibitive to most clubs, Chelsea are willing to take the unusual step of allowing a senior player to leave on loan and are open to paying a small proportion of his wages.
The Times of London has learnt that Fabregas came close to joining Serie A side AC Milan on loan on transfer deadline day last August, with the deal collapsing at the last minute after a disagreement over the proportion of his wages that Chelsea were willing to pay. The club will take similar steps to offload him in January.
Chelsea have 38 mostly young players out on loan at clubs throughout Europe, but have not been willing to subsidise a loan player's wages since Fernando Torres moved to Milan 21/2 years ago.
Fabregas, 29, has not fallen out with Conte and has impressed Chelsea's backroom team with his professionalism throughout a difficult season, but it is clear that he does not feature prominently in the manager's plans.
Conte feels that Fabregas lacks the physical strength and positional discipline to play as one of two central midfielders in his preferred 3-4-3 system, as well as having insufficient pace to operate out wide or in more attacking areas.
N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic have formed an effective central partnership, which has brought Chelsea four successive Premier League wins without conceding a goal.
And Conte wants to add another physically imposing midfielder to his squad in January.
THE TIMES, LONDON