Chelsea have stepped up their scouting of a handful of alternative defenders as their pursuit of Sevilla's Jules Kounde continues to stall, 90min understands.
The Blues have agreed a £55m fee with Sevilla and have already struck a deal on personal terms with the centre-back, and it looked as though they were set to wrap up the transfer before a late change of heart from fellow suitors Barcelona saw them push ahead with their own move for Kounde.
The La Liga giants are in constant dialogue with Kounde over personal terms and sources have confirmed to 90min that the Frenchman is keen to hear their proposal and consider all of his options before making a final decision.
As the only side with an agreement over both a transfer fee and a contract, Chelsea have refused to give up hope that they will eventually win the race for Kounde, but the continued delay has seen them explore possible alternatives as well.
Those in charge at Stamford Bridge have been looking to sign three new defenders this summer - a decision which has left young Levi Colwill open to a permanent departure - and so scouts have already been looking at other players to sign alongside Kounde and Kalidou Koulibaly, but measures have stepped up recently amid concerns that the Frenchman may not actually end up making the move and two more targets may be required.
Among those to have been considered are Villarreal's Pau Torres, Inter's Milan Skriniar, RB Leipzig's Josko Gvardiol and Bayern Munich duo Dayot Upamecano and Benjamin Pavard.
The Blues have also reached out to RB Leipzig over a deal for Nordi Mukiele, but he has already agreed terms with Paris Saint-Germain and is expected to finalise his switch to Parc des Princes imminently.
Listen now to 90min's Talking Transfers podcast, with Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth. On the latest show they discuss Chelsea finally closing in on Jules Kounde, Man Utd's ongoing pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, West Ham's hunt for a new forward and left-back and more. Available on all audio platforms.
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Importantly, Chelsea officials have not yet given up on signing Kounde. Their full agreement with both the defender and his club remains on the table and there is hope that Barcelona will not be able to match their proposal to the 23-year-old.
In the meantime, Kounde remains in Lisbon with the rest of his Sevilla team-mates. He is recovering from minor surgery and not yet in full training, instead working alone while he considers all the options available to him.