Chelsea are poised to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United for £40m in a transfer that reunites the Serbia midfielder with former Blues manager Jose Mourinho.
The deal sees the Premier League champions effectively recoup their outlay on Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, whose arrival earlier this month paved the way for Matic’s departure.
It raises questions, however, about Chelsea’s depth in central midfield, with the club still boasting just three regular first-team options despite the additional burden of a Champions League campaign this season.
Matic is set to become United’s third signing of the summer, following the purchase of £75m striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton and £31m Sweden centre-back Victor Lindelof from Benfica.
His arrival at Old Trafford is likely to spell the end of their interest in Tottenham’s Eric Dier, although Mourinho is thought to want at least one more signing.
Inter Milan and Croatia winger Ivan Perisic is believed to be the most likely target.
Matic, 28 – he turns 29 on Tuesday – has one League Cup and two Premier League winners’ medals from his second spell at Chelsea, having returned to west London from Benfica in January 2014 for £21m.
He quickly became a key figure in Mourinho’s remodelled Blues outfit, despite playing under him for less than a year as the Portuguese’s tenure ended in acrimony six months after winning the league.
Chelsea’s sale of Nathaniel Chalobah to Watford and the loaning of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to Crystal Palace have left Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas as the main central midfield options.
Youngster Lewis Baker has returned from a successful loan spell in Holland but is tipped to make another temporary move, as is Croatian prospect Mario Pasalic.