Pochettino moves to destroy Liverpool plans as Chelsea burst into race for highly rated Wolves star

Hwang Hee-chan and Rayan Ait-Nouri, Wolves

Wolves pair Hwang Hee-chan and Rayan Ait-Nouri

Liverpool could miss out on the signing of Wolverhampton Wanderers star Rayan Ait-Nouri, as Chelsea have reportedly joined the hunt for him.

Ait-Nouri spent time in the Paris FC youth setup before joining Angers U19s in July 2016. The left-back, who can also operate further forward as a left midfielder, went on to force his way into the Angers first team.

Ait-Nouri only made 23 appearances for the French club, but he put in some hugely impressive performances. This in turn put a host of top European clubs on alert ahead of a potential transfer.

Rather than heading to a truly elite team, though, Ait-Nouri took a clever next step by signing for Wolves.

So far, the France-born Algeria international has made 92 appearances for Wolves, registering four goals and eight assists in that time.

He has been thriving under new Wolves boss Gary O’Neil this season, and it seems it might not be too long before one of their Premier League rivals submits an offer for him.

READ MORE: Ex-Man City captain warns Klopp over handling of ‘brilliant’ Liverpool star that could ruin title challenge

On November 14, it emerged that Liverpool have begun keeping tabs on Ait-Nouri’s situation. Jurgen Klopp views him as an upgrade on Kostas Tsimikas, and as a potential successor to Andy Robertson at Anfield.

But Liverpool may end up getting into – and subsequently losing – a bidding war, as Chelsea are also on the hunt for Ait-Nouri’s signature. According to 90Min, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have landed on the 22-year-old as a top target for 2024.

Chelsea, Liverpool both in for Rayan Ait-Nouri

Chelsea recruitment staff have been impressed by Ait-Nouri’s displays in recent months and have urged co-owner Todd Boehly to sanction a swoop for him.

Pochettino and co. have begun eyeing Ait-Nouri as they plan a shift in their left-back depth next year. Ben Chilwell is Pochettino’s first-choice in the position, but he has been out of action since early October with a hamstring injury.

Marc Cucurella and Levi Colwill can also operate at left-back in the Chelsea squad. But there are concerns over whether Cucurella is good enough to shine at Stamford Bridge going forward, while Colwill is viewed as more of a centre-half. Those factors, coupled with Ian Maatsen’s desire to leave for Manchester City, could make space for Ait-Nouri in the Chelsea setup.

Wolves are known to be in a difficult financial situation, which is why they had to sell Ruben Neves in the summer, and why they could not fully back previous manager Julen Lopetegui.

Despite this, it is unlikely Wolves will allow Ait-Nouri to leave for either Chelsea or Liverpool on the cheap. They are fully aware of how good his potential is, which means they will demand a premium price to sell.

Plus, the Molineux outfit are protected by Ait-Nouri’s contract, which runs until the summer of 2026.

Meanwhile, TEAMtalk can reveal Chelsea and Man City are rivalling three European giants for the capture of a Brazilian attacker.