Chelsea have dramatically returned to the race to sign Everton’s striker Romelu Lukaku by agreeing to match Manchester United’s offer.
Antonio Conte is refusing to give up on his No 1 summer target and Chelsea have also agreed to match the personal terms being offered to the Belgium international at Old Trafford.
But United, who will pay at least £75million to clinch the deal, remain in the driving seat.
Chelsea will not pay what is thought to be an eight-figure fee, believed to be £12m, to Lukaku’s agent Mino Raiola, which is a key part of the United package.
Before United stepped in with their concrete bid, Lukaku was in contact with Conte and made it clear he was enthusiastic about a return to the club who brought him to England from Anderlecht as a teenager in 2011.
However, the Belgium forward has formed a close bond with United midfielder Paul Pogba and they are currently on holiday together in Los Angeles. The pair have the same agent.
Despite Jose Mourinho agreeing to sell Lukaku to Everton three years ago, the United manager wants to work with him again.
Lukaku is still expected to have a United medical this weekend and join Mourinho’s squad for their tour of the United States when all the details with Everton are completed.
Chelsea were stunned by United’s quick move to sign Lukaku, especially as Conte had identified him as the prime target to replace Diego Costa, who is thought to be on his way to Atletico Madrid following a fall-out with the Chelsea boss.
Chelsea’s bid will test Lukaku’s loyalties and emotions.
The 24-year-old Belgium international set his heart on a return to Stamford Bridge before Manchester United moved quickly to agree a fee with Everton, earlier this week.
Lukaku has been presented with a basic moral decision.
Does he follow his heart back to London? Or does he allow Raiola to rule his future and take him to Old Trafford because that will produce the greatest profit for the middle-man?
Raiola also represents Pogba, the world’s most expensive footballer, Manchester United midfielder and personal friend of Lukaku.