Chelsea are close to completing a deal to sign Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain on an initial six-month loan deal, sources have confirmed to ESPN FC.
The agreement will give Chelsea the option to either buy Higuain — who had made clear his desire to cut short an unsatisfying loan spell at AC Milan — next summer or extend the loan for a further 12 months.
Chelsea accelerated talks with Juventus and Milan on Wednesday after the two clubs contested the Italian Supercoppa in Jeddah, which Juve won 1-0, after deciding to grant head coach Maurizio Sarri his wish to reunite with the striker he managed to prolific success at Napoli.
Following the match, Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved said the Serie A leaders were ready to discuss options with Chelsea over the future of Higuain, who played 20 minutes in the Supercoppa due to illness.
“It’s right that we don’t talk about it now out of respect for the player and for AC Milan, but we can talk about it from tomorrow,” Nedved told RAI.
Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso confirmed it was a fever, not Higuain’s possible departure, that kept him out of the XI for Wednesday’s match against Juve.
“He had a [high] fever last night,” Gattuso told RAI. “We did everything we could to get him better, but he didn’t sleep much, so I preferred a fresher player.
“It may seem like a joke, but honestly, it’s true.”
Speculation about Higuain’s future was fuelled by an earlier club photograph with a Saudi prince in which the Argentinian forward was not present.
“Higuain wasn’t in the picture because I was afraid the virus would spread among the other players, so that was my decision,” Gattuso added, justifying Higuain’s absence. “Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
Last week a source told ESPN FC that Sarri was present at a meeting between Chelsea officials and Nicolas Higuain, brother and agent of Nicolas, in London to discuss a January move.
Higuain was always Sarri’s preferred striker target and was recommended by the Italian for Chelsea before he joined Milan on loan last summer, but concerns about the Argentine’s age and relative expense prevented the Blues from making a move for him then.
But the ongoing struggles of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud in front of goal, which have led Sarri to deploy Eden Hazard as a false nine with increasing frequency in recent weeks, forced Chelsea to reconsider their stance on a move for Higuain.
Higuain became a Juventus and Serie A record-signing when he moved to Turin in 2016 for €90 million, after scoring a league-record 36 goals under Sarri at Napoli in the previous campaign.
He joined the Rossoneri in the summer on an €18m season-long loan deal with an option to complete a permanent move for €36m in the summer. However, since he is officially still a Juve player, Chelsea would need to reach an agreement with the Bianconeri.
He has scored only six goals in 15 Serie A appearances this season, after netting 24 and 16 in his two seasons in Turin.
All parties will be hoping that Higuain can rediscover the form that led him to record the best scoring season of his career under Sarri, while his arrival also leaves the way clear for Morata to depart Stamford Bridge on loan this month.
Sevilla have given up on signing the Spaniard due to the costs involved, but Atletico Madrid are seriously interested in giving him a chance to revive his career.
Last week Sarri revealed he has told Chelsea that he feels his squad needs two new players in January, with Higuain the first and the other reportedly being Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Leandro Paredes, who would fill the void created by the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Monaco.
Italy and Serie A correspondent Ben Gladwell contributed to this story.