According to Jornal de Noticias (via SportWitness), Chelsea have joined Liverpool in the race to sign Sporting Lisbon midfielder Manuel Ugarte this summer.
The Uruguayan is regarded as one of the best young midfielders and it was recently reported that Liverpool could make a concrete proposal to sign the 22-year-old from the Lisbon side.
As per Jornal de Noticias, Chelsea have now joined the pursuit of the defensive midfielder. They are ‘observing’ his performances and are ‘attentive’ to his current situation at Sporting.
Ugarte has already snubbed a new Sporting contract and could leave for a fee close to his £52 million release clause.
Ugarte has developed into a quality holding midfielder at Sporting. This season, he has completed a stunning 91% of his passes while winning 3.9 tackles and 6.5 ground duels per appearance.
The South American has also impressed with his work rate and regular high pressing. He has the credentials to become an elite midfielder if he can perform the same way at a bigger club.
Liverpool have already expressed an interest in landing his signature but Chelsea could look to beat them in the pursuit.
The London giants signed Enzo Fernandez from Benfica in January and the Argentine has been a regular in the number six role. However, he has performed better from an advanced position.
We could see him playing in a central midfield role next season and Ugarte could feature behind him. It is still unclear whether N’Golo Kante will stay at the club with his contract expiring this summer.
Even if he agrees to an extension, Chelsea will want to sign an upcoming defensive midfielder, considering the Frenchman has been largely injury-prone during the back end of his playing career.
Liverpool are Chelsea’s biggest threat in the race to sign the Uruguayan. They are currently in the European places in the league and could have a big advantage if they qualify for the Champions League.