Chelsea are still in talks with Atalanta over the possible signing of Franck Kessié but the Premier League club but may have to wait until the summer before a transfer can be concluded.
Antonio Conte is a huge admirer of the Ivory Coast midfielder and would be keen for the player to join Chelsea during this transfer window but there is an acceptance that Atalanta will want to keep him until the end of the current campaign.
Atalanta are holding out for up to €35m-€40m (£30m-£34m) for Kessié, who spent last season on loan at Cesena but has become a key player for the Nerazzurri this campaign. The 20-year-old has scored six goals in 16 appearances as Ny Mohamed Salah Fodboldtrøje Til Liverpool Atalanta have moved up the table to sixth in Serie A, only three points behind third‑placed Napoli. Losing Kessié now would be a big blow to their hopes of qualifying for Europe.
Gian Piero Gasperini, the Atalanta manager said after the club's last game before the winter break that he hoped he would keep all his players in January. "I am not worried as I don't think that any player will leave in January. The club have every intention to keep the players until June and we may even strengthen."
The Ivorian midfielder's agent claimed last week that several other Premier League sides, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, were also monitoring Kessié's situation and Juventus and Napoli are also interested in signing the player. Napoli, indeed, have a first-refusal option if they can agree a fee with Atalanta.
Kessié has been selected in the Ivory Coast squad for the Africa Cup of Nations having become a regular in Michel Dussuyer's side in recent months.
A proposed move to Sunderland in August broke down after he was denied a work permit but his new status as a regular international and one of the highest-rated young midfielders in Italy should mean that is no longer an obstacle to any move to England.
Kessié's agent George Atangana told the Guardian last week: "We have a lot of interest from the Premier League. I cannot maglie calcio say at this stage how much he will cost but we are talking about one of the best young players in the world.
"But for us the most important thing is that the technical project is the right one for him. Franck is very young so we have to be very careful about his development.
"Chelsea are very interested and it is a great club but we must take our time to consider all the options," Atangana, who was due to meet Stamford Bridge officials in London this week, added. "Now we are in January so he has to play at the Africa Cup of Nations for Ivory Coast so I am not going to rush anything."
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