LONDON • Manchester United are threatening to rival Chelsea for a second key transfer target after registering a late inquiry for Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The player had been expected to join Chelsea but, with negotiations dragging on, United made a surprise move on Monday.
In an echo of last week's developments with striker Romelu Lukaku, who completed his transfer to Old Trafford from Everton on Monday, United are understood to have expressed a potential willingness to go beyond Chelsea's offer of £35 million (S$62.5 million) and come close to Monaco's £40 million valuation.
United's interest is another unwelcome development for Chelsea, who may hope their rivals are simply trying to gain leverage in their stalled bid to lure Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea remain confident but Antonio Conte, the manager, would be alarmed by the possibility of missing out to United for another target as he prepares to take his squad on their pre-season tour of China and Singapore.
Chelsea's offer stands at £35 million, a figure they had been unwilling to go beyond due to concerns over a knee injury that required keyhole surgery last month and could yet force Bakayoko to miss the opening weeks of the new campaign.
The 22-year-old is known to have been preparing to move to Chelsea, anticipating a breakthrough in negotiations between the two clubs, and his thoughts on a potential move to United are not yet clear.
British media also reported yesterday that Spanish striker Alvaro Morata is now the focus of frustrated Conte's attentions after Lukaku slipped through his fingers.
Chelsea have tabled a £62 million bid for the 24-year-old but Real Madrid are holding out for around £80 million.
The Blues have also offered Morata wages of £150,000 a week on a five-year contract, according to London's Evening Standard.
Morata is keen to play for the manager and told The Guardian that Conte had given him self-belief.
The Spaniard came close to playing for Conte at Juventus in 2014 when the Italian played a pivotal role in persuading him to join the club - only for the coach to jump ship and take over the national side.
"I feel indebted to him because he's the coach that most trusted in me, most wanted me, who made me feel I could perform at the highest level," Morata said in April.
"Yet I've never had the fortune to actually work with him. I'm sure sooner or later I will."
Morata would replace fellow Spanish international Diego Costa, whom Conte told at the end of last season that he no longer figured in the manager's plans despite his 20 Premier League goals spurring on Chelsea to the title.
Costa, who endured a fractious relationship with Conte last season, is linked to a move back to Atletico Madrid even though the Spanish club cannot register new players until January because of a blanket Fifa transfer ban.
Chelsea reportedly have rejected an initial bid of £22 million for the 28-year-old Brazil-born marksman and would like to recoup at least the £32 million they paid for him in 2014.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE