Barcelona and Chelsea battling for £53m-rated defender

Chelsea have competition in their pursuit of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, with Barcelona reportedly keen on the Senegalese defender, according to The Sun.

Antonio Conte’s side tried and failed to sign Koulibaly last year, seeing their £43m bid knocked back. The Blues went on to re-sign David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain for £34m, but it looks as though Chelsea will renew their interest in the commanding Napoli defender in January.

Barcelona, however, could throw a spanner in the works, according to Mundo Deportivo. The Catalan giants have been desperate to bolster their own backline, with Javier Mascherano expected to leave the club at the end of the season, and could make an approach for Koulibaly as a result.

The 26-year-old joined Napoli from KRC Genk in 2014 for £7m. He’s gone on to make over 130 appearances for the Italian Serie A giants and has been a regular at the heart of the defence this season – playing every minute of every Serie A game so far.

Barcelona scouts reportedly watched Koulibaly help Napoli to a 1-0 win over AS Roma last week and will continue tracking his progress throughout the campaign, with a view to making an official approach next summer.

The centre-back is contracted until 2021, and Napoli have made it clear of their desire to keep him at the Stadio San Paolo, but rumours have alleged there is an agreement between the player and club president that could see him leave at the end of the season.

Aurelio de Laurentiis is believed to have slapped a £53m price tag on the player, raising the valuation after increased interest in the last year, but it’s unknown if either Chelsea or Barcelona will be willing to meet the lofty fee.