As he struggles to persuade Napoli to sell Kalidou Koulibaly, Antonio Conte has turned his attention to Torino’s star defender Nikola Maksimovic, a man dubbed the new Nemanja Vidic.
Having lost out to Manchester City in the race to sign John Stones, Conte is still seeking another centre-half, but Napoli won’t budge on anything less than £40m for the talented Koulibaly.
And with time running out before the transfer window closes, the Chelsea boss is increasingly targeting alternative options, with Torino’s Maksimovic becoming an ever-greater possibility.
The 24-year-old Serbian is, somewhat ironically, heavily courted by Napoli, but Gli Azzurri are prepared to go no higher than £21.5m and Chelsea have reportedly informed Torino that they are happy to beat that price.
Maksimovic has been with Torino for three years, after two seasons with Serbian greats Red Star Belgrade.
The centre-half is a mightily imposing figure at 6ft 4in, and has already made 12 appearances for his country where he is regarded in the same light as Manchester United legend Vidic.
Meanwhile in Turin, the sizable defender has been nicknamed ‘The Wall’.
Mighty in the air, Maksimovic remains notably agile on the turf and is renowned as a fierce man-marker.
If he does prove to be anything like Vidic – who won five Premier League and the Champions League during eight and a half years in England – Maksimovic could be Chelsea’s ideal solution after all.
Torino’s sporting director Gianluca Petrachi gave plenty of insight into the situation this week, saying: “We have been talking to Napoli about Maksimovic since January, but there has been too much talk and not enough action.”
“Now he is wanted by a big foreign club too. It is a Premier League club with even greater resources.”
Conte is determined to land a Serie A defender before next Wednesday, and has already seen a £30m offer for AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli turned down.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.