By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
A group of third party investors have joined the race to sign Belgian teenager Romelu Lukaku, sources have revealed to Goal.com.
The consortium, made up of individuals from several countries outside of Belgium and who are believed to be from football and financial backgrounds, held talks with officials representing Anderlecht on Monday.
The investors have said they want to buy Lukaku's economic rights and set up a deal where they would take ownership of the player and find him a new club.
The group have emerged as the main rival to long-term suitors Chelsea for the signature of Lukaku, and any deal with the investors would seriously complicate the Stamford Bridge club's advances on the player due to third party ownership being outlawed in English football.
Anderlecht's general manager, Herman van Holsbeeck, and Lukaku's agent, Christophe Henrotay, held formal talks with Chelsea in London last week and negotiations are continuing to take the player to the capital.
An Anderlecht spokesman told Goal.com: "There is a London club interested in the services of Romelu Lukaku and they are talking with us at the moment."
Talks have centred on the composition of the deal, which will include a payment to the Lukaku family and a percentage for his agent. The two clubs have yet to find some middle ground, with Anderlecht holding out for a total package of £22 million.
Reports of serious interest from Arsenal and Manchester City are understood to be wide of the mark.
But the emergence of a consortium could put pressure on Chelsea to increase their initial proposition of paying around £15m for the 18-year-old. This offer was believed to have been made verbally last Friday.
Sources have told Goal.com that "it is early days" for the third party proposal, which is said to be "a bit complicated". No financial agreement is yet in place for a deal which would be the first of its kind for the Belgian club.
Third party ownership of any player is prohibited at English clubs, a rule introduced following the bitter disputes caused by Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano's spells at West Ham. However, it is common practice for individual investors to buy stakes in players in Brazil and Argentina, speculating that they will cash in for a profit when the player is sold.
This system has been extended to Europe, specifically Portugal, where the likes of Ramires and David Luiz were part owned by third parties before being sold to Chelsea. In the case of Lukaku, it remains to be seen if he would want his economic rights to be sold to investors.
Given that the third party investors are willing to out-bid Chelsea, if they are successful it would mean the Premier League club's hopes of signing Lukaku in the current window would be over.
The likelihood is that Lukaku would be 'loaned' to a club just out of the elite but above the standard of the Belgium top division.
Those close to the youngster say he has his heart set on a move to Stamford Bridge, where he would team up with his hero Didier Drogba.
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