By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Chelsea have identified strengthening the midfield with technically gifted emerging stars as their main priority in January, Goal.com has learned.
Club officials have spent several days in Spain over the last month laying the groundwork for deals in the next two windows - with Barcelona and Real Madrid youngsters under consideration.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich wants the club to emulate Barcelona’s approach of nurturing talented young stars to play a high-tempo, passing game.
After the club's worst start to the season since the Russian magnate purchased it in 2003, defensive woes have raised the prospect of a move for a centre-half, with Gary Cahill one potential signing.
But Goal.com understands that backing 34-year-old manager Andre Villas-Boas by reinforcing both the defensive and attacking midfield options is the chief priority.
Sergi Roberto, a 19-year-old Spain Under-21 international who plays in central midfield for Barcelona B, is understood to be top of Chelsea’s shopping list.
The Londoners have also made enquiries for Roberto’s colleagues Rafa Alcantara and Marti Riverola, although any move for the younger brother of Barcelona first teamer Thiago Alcantara has been put on hold after he signed a new contract on Monday that runs until 2014 with a reported £26 million buy-out clause.
Youth club | Chelsea are keen to snap up the continent's best young stars
Chelsea are concentrating on the new wave of talent emerging from world and European champions Spain. The club believe the greater opportunities likely to be on offer at Stamford Bridge can tempt the likes of Roberto to follow in the footsteps of Oriel Romeu, who joined Chelsea from Barcelona last summer, as well as the more seasoned Juan Mata.
“There are a few players on the horizon,” a Chelsea source told Goal.com. “Club officials have been in Spain quite a lot over the last month looking at young, fringe squad players at the big clubs. The idea of importing young talent from abroad is now quite well established at the club even though it is a bit of a gamble because it is twice as difficult to move from another league to the Premier League in January.”Follow Wayne Veysey on