Chelsea have become new contenders to sign Sporting CP midfielder Manuel Ugarte, according to a report coming from Portugal.
Ugarte has attracted interest from the Premier League after starring against Tottenham and Arsenal in European competitions this season. Thanks to a €60m release clause (equivalent to just over £52m) in his contract, he could be available for a summer transfer.
The defensive midfielder has already been heavily linked with Liverpool, while Aston Villa have recently come into contention for his signature.
According to the latest update from Record, the two Premier League clubs have been joined in their interest by Chelsea.
Todd Boehly is said to be an ‘admirer’ of Portuguese football – having broken the British transfer record to bring Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea from Benfica in January – and is consequently willing to make ‘concrete proposals’ to Sporting for Ugarte as the next piece of their midfield puzzle.
Boehly will be able to draw on his strong relations with Ugarte’s representative Jorge Mendes during negotiations.
However, Sporting will refer back to Ugarte’s €60m exit clause before letting him go. Even so, Mendes will be meeting with the Lisbon-based club in the coming week to assess the options.
Sporting still have Ugarte under contract until 2026, but will be unable to stand in his way if anyone pays the €60m release clause.
Chelsea to compete for Ugarte amid midfield rebuild
Chelsea might be interested in adding to their midfield because of uncertainty about the futures of N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, among others.
Kante is out of contract at the end of the season, while the other three have just 12 months remaining on their deals and could be sold to some of their other suitors.
Mount has been linked with Liverpool, Kovacic could be on the radar of both Manchester clubs, while Loftus-Cheek is a top target for AC Milan in Serie A.
However, while also pursuing Mount, Liverpool are a threat to Chelsea in the battle for Ugarte. In fact, Record claims they have told the 22-year-old to expect an offer from them this summer.
Liverpool have also become accustomed to looking at the Portuguese market in recent years, buying Darwin Nunez from Benfica last summer and Luis Diaz from Porto six months prior.
Therefore, they might be ready to make an effort to sign Ugarte for their upcoming midfield overhaul, which will follow the departures of James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on free transfers.
And Aston Villa, who are on course for European qualification for next season, unlike Chelsea, are worth being wary of as well.
Ugarte, who is a full Uruguay international, has made 46 appearances in all competitions for Sporting so far this season, failing to score a single goal while focusing on his more important responsibilities of breaking up play.