Chelsea close in on Barcelona star despite transfer ban

There are reports in Spain that Chelsea are keeping tabs on the situation of Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho with a view to a summer deal.

Coutinho, who moved to the Nou Camp from Liverpool in January 2018 for an initial €120m fee, has not established himself as a consistent starter under Coach Ernesto Valverde – with just 35 La Liga starts in 15 months.

El Confidencial report follows on directly from a report in Diario Sport which claimed the Brazilian will replace the outgoing Eden Hazard, who has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.

The former Liverpool playmaker has cut a frustrated figure for the Catalan club this season, finding starting opportunities limited at the club and struggling to find consistent form.

Football Espana adds that the Blaugrana are keen to shift on the player for any bids upwards of €100m, as they want to clear his €14m annual wage in order to add to their own squad.

Chelsea will need to find a replacement for Hazard but are under a FIFA-imposed transfer ban for the next two windows, which the club are currently appealing – the report claims the move is now ‘in FIFA’s hands’.

The player was recently booed by sections of Barca’s support in their 3-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano and appeared to cup his ears to fans after scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United have also been linked to the player, who is hoping to retain his place in Barca’s side ahead of the returning Ousmane Dembele.