CHELSEA reportedly think they can pip Liverpool to the signature of Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk by the start of the new Premier League season.
Van Dijk looks destined to leave Southampton after handing in a transfer request.
The Holland international has spent the summer angling for a move to Liverpool, who have spearheaded the race for his signature.
The Merseyside giants were reported to the FA by the Saints for tapping up the centre-back but Liverpool remain determined to snap him up.
However, Chelsea are also interested in signing him up and fresh reports suggest the Blues could be about to embarrass their Premier League rivals.
The Times say Antonio Conte has told members of the club’s hierarchy that, though he has already signed Antonio Rudiger from Roma, Van Dijk is still wanted.
And, consequently, Chelsea are readying an offer of £50million to sign the 26-year-old.
They think that, given Southampton’s rocky transfer relationship with Liverpool, that could work in their favour.
The tapping up saga aside, the Saints do not want to lose another player to the Anfield outfit after previously seeing the likes of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert jump ship to Merseyside.
Chelsea even think they stand a chance of having Van Dijk in their squad in time for their Premier League opener against Burnley on August 12.
Liverpool plan on launching a formal bid for the former Celtic star before the end of the transfer window.
But that could be too late, with Chelsea now feeling they are well placed to win the race for one of the league’s most consistent defenders.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino admitted yesterday that he wanted to keep Van Dijk – but the player is having none of it.
“The situation is the boy is aside of the team because he doesn’t want to play for us,” he said, referring to the fact his star centre-back is training alone.
“I would like to persuade him that he’s important for us and the club will not sell him.”