Benfica’s early exit from the Champions League has amped up the financial crisis the Lisbon club are currently enduring and, as a result, they are willing to negotiate with those courting their top stars.
Such news will come as a delight to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, who have Serbian duo Lazar Markovic and Nemanja Matic on their radar.
Markovic, a 19-year-old winger, is thought to be available for £12m, while Matic has a £20m price tag hanging around his neck.
Re-signing Matic at such an exorbitant fee, especially after they let him go for nothing as part of David Luiz’s Stamford Bridge switch in 2011, isn’t overly appealing to the Blues, with Markovic the primary target of the pair.
Obviously, Chelsea’s ranks are littered with attacking midfielders, meaning acquiring Markovic immediately isn’t a necessity.
Should they broker a January deal, it would probably involve loaning him back to Benfica for the remainder of the campaign, if not beyond that.
At such a young age, Markovic has already won nine caps for Serbia, for whom he’s scored two goals, and is regarded as one of the brightest stars in the current Benfica squad. Given their current financial plight, the club can’t be expecting to keep him on their books long into 2014.
The same can be said of central midfielder Matic, though the competition to procure his services will be much fiercer with Manchester United also thought to be keen on him.
Of the pair, a player of Matic’s ilk is what Chelsea require more, with the plethora of creative midfielders in their ranks imbalanced against the few combative ones, reflected in their sometimes shabby defensive efforts this season.
With the Red Devils’ much-publicised shortage in this area of the pitch, though, they’re sure to be more receptive to Benfica’s huge demands for his services, meaning they must be favourites to sign him in January.
Following their goalless draw with Arsenal, Chelsea find themselves just two points off the pace in the Premier League, with healthy odds of 4/1 saying they’ll win it.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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