By Paul Clennam
Chelsea are set to beat Liverpool to the signature of Porto winger Christian Atsu.
Jose Mourinho, who has already stolen Brazil international playmaker Willian from under the noses of Tottenham this summer, will now look to finalise a move for the highly-rated Ghana international.
Liverpool were in pole position to sign the 21-year-old before displaying a reluctance to meet the Portuguese club’s €4 million asking price for a player who has just a year left to run on his current contract.
Espanyol had also been in the running to sign Atsu and were willing to match the Portuguese club’s valuation but were unable to better the contract offers on the table from the Premier League giants - though they may yet get their hands on the player on a temporary basis this season.
Competition for places is intense at Stamford Bridge, particularly in the wide and attacking midfield positions, even ahead of Atsu’s imminent arrival.
Already this season the likes of Victor Moses and Juan Mata, two players who were crucial to Chelsea’s Europa League success last season, have struggled to force their way into Mourinho’s plans this term.
Mourinho, whose side have begun the season by claiming seven points from a possible nine available and face Bayern Munich in Friday’s European Super Cup, may well be willing to allow Atsu to leave on loan with Espanyol a potential destination.