Chelsea are pursuing an agreement to sign Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona, 90min understands, but he is unlikely to move to Stamford Bridge in the final hours of the January transfer window.
The winger was told he would be sold earlier this month having failed to agree a new contract at Camp Nou due to his lofty wage demands. His current terms are due to expire in the summer and Barça had wanted to cash in rather than lose him for nothing in five months' time.
However, Barcelona's valuation of a soon-to-be free agent and the France international's salary have proven to be deterrents to this point.
The Blaugrana are now desperate to shift Dembele before Monday's deadline as they look to create space in the squad for a new striker - namely Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - and have reiterated his availability to potential suitors with time running out.
However, 90min understands the player's representatives have engaged Chelsea in talks over a pre-contract agreement ahead of a free transfer in the summer - and those are now progressing. Barça have been made aware of the situation, but they are powerless to stop the negotiations with Dembele into the final six months of his contract.
The Frenchman previously thrived under Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund, before the German left the club in May 2017.
Speaking about links with the forward earlier in January, Tuchel said: "He is a very good player when he is in his top level. I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund. It was only one year, it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave.
"From there we are not in closest contact, we met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties, it’s very close to Paris. This is where we met or exchanged some messages.
"He is in a situation (at Barcelona), I have no idea why or what the situation and detail is. I know how I feel about it when it’s about my players so it is better not to talk."
Tuchel's former club Paris Saint-Germain also believe they have a verbal understanding with Dembele, but the wide man is assessing his options and that agreement does not prevent him from doing so.