Chelsea will make a sensational £48 million January move for Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao, Goal.com has learned.
Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, has decided to activate the €60m (£48.1m) release clause in the Colombian’s contract as he looks to land one of the hottest strikers in the world.
Manchester City are also interested in Falcao but the Premier League champions fear the 26-year-old is destined for a switch to Stamford Bridge in the New Year, with some suggesting that he has already agreed personal terms with the Londoners.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo wants a leading striker in the next transfer window, with Fernando Torres currently the only out-and-out forward in the first-team squad.
Falcao, who has already scored 12 goals in eight Atletico Madrid appearances this season, fits the bill as a natural goalscorer to combine with the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar as Chelsea target Premier League glory this term.
Atletico are desperate to keep Falcao but will have no option if a club activates the buyout clause for a player who cost £34.7m when he joined from Porto in 2011.
The deal will be complicated by third-party ownership issues - with super agent Jorge Mendes part of a consortium holding an interest in Falcao - but Chelsea have started work early to ensure the move goes through smoothly.
City could yet rival Chelsea for Falcao’s signature but first need to offload one of their four main strikers - Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli - meaning the Blues are hot favourites to land the former River Plate man.
Falcao scored 36 goals in his first season in the Spanish capital, firing them to victory in the Europa League before further catching the eye with a stunning hat-trick in Atletico’s 4-1 win against Chelsea in the European Super Cup in August.
The Blues spent more than £70m in the summer to bring in Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Marko Marin and Cesar Apilicueta - but Abramovich is ready to make the money available to sign Falcao and remains confident that the club will meet Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
Falcao’s arrival would again raise questions over the long-term future of £50m Fernando Torres, who has scored four goals in eight Premier League appearances so far this season.