Chelsea sent scouts to Portugal to watch Benfica pairing Javi Garcia and Nelson Oliveira at the weekend as interim boss Roberto Di Matteo moved into pole position for the job full-time.
The decision to observe two players high on the Italian’s list of potential transfer targets sends out a clear message that Roman Abramovich may favour the appointment of Di Matteo, who is at 7/4 to be the next permanent manager.
The Champions League crown that has eluded the Russian for nearly a decade would all but confirm the former midfielder’s appointment, and he is 13/2 to lift the trophy in Munich.
Sir Alex Ferguson is a known admirer of Garcia, who can operate as both a midfielder and a defender, and the Pensioners are likely to come up against the Scot as he attempts to freshen up his options for next season.
The ex-Real Madrid man has had a price tag of £25 million placed on his head by his current employers, but English suitors will be eager to do business at a price closer to £20 million or even £15 million.
Oliveira on the other hand is something of an unknown quantity.
He lit up the Under-20 World Cup last year as he notched four goals in a campaign that saw the Portuguese finish runners-up, but he has only made eleven league appearances this term and is still searching for his first league goal.
The 20-year old striker has already made his debut for the Portuguese national team and is attracting the attention of the world’s elite, with scouts from both Barcelona and Real Madrid keeping tabs on the youngster.
Di Matteo is eager to lure the pair away from the Estadio da Luz and the Russian owner looks set to back him by bankrolling a £35million offer if Di Matteo is unveiled as manager at the end of the current campaign.