Chelsea overtake Arsenal in race to sign top defensive target after Reece James blow

Chelsea have entered the race to sign Real Valladolid defender Ivan Fresneda but face competition from long-time suitors Barcelona and Arsenal, according to reports.

Fresneda is one of Spain’s highest-rated young players but has a release clause in his contract which means he will only cost around €10million (£8.5m) this summer.

Barca are looking for a new right-back and the club’s newly appointed sporting director Deco is a big fan of Fresneda, though even that bargain fee may not be within the Catalan club’s budget.

Arsenal have also been exploring a deal for some time, dating back to the January window, and the ACL injury sustained by Jurrien Timber has created fresh need for defensive reinforcements.

Chelsea are also a little light on options at the back amid a rash of injuries, with Reece James the latest player to be sidelined with a hamstring issue he picked up in training.

While manager Mauricio Pochettino does not believe it is a big issue, and also has Malo Gusto to call on in the skipper’s absence, it could prompt the west Londoners to look to add another versatile defender to their ranks.

According to ESPN, that has seen Chelsea begin to ramp up interest in Fresneda as a potential solution, with the Valladolid right-back fitting the profile of young, emerging talent they have been targeting recently.

However, the teenager is believed to have made a move to Barcelona his top priority and is waiting for the Spanish champions to solidify their interest with a formal bid.

There is thought to be some friction behind the scenes over whether to move for Fresneda or not, with Deco keen to recruit the Spain Under-20 international but manager Xavi less convinced.

Ideally, the Barcelona boss wants a right-back with more experience, such as Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo.

If Barca do not submit a bid for Fresneda, he will then explore other options and Chelsea are one of several teams keeping tabs on the situation before deciding whether to swoop.

Arsenal also remain interested while a host of other clubs have also explored deals, including West Ham, Borussia Dortmund, Sporting, Porto and Benfica.

Valladolid were relegated from La Liga last season and Fresneda wants to leave to ensure he is playing top-flight football this season and if Barca – his preferred destination – fail to act he is prepared to look elsewhere.

Interestingly, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea are not currently one of the many clubs looking at the teenager, with the west Londoners prioritising other areas of the pitch and outgoings.

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