Chelsea in pole position to sign 28-year-old England international

London club have made an enquiry to Brighton over a defender and captain Lewis Dunk, with the Seagulls, prepared to let him leave if their hefty valuation is met.

Chelsea boss is free to make signings after the London club’s transfer ban was lifted and he is keen to reinforce his defence, with former Chelsea footballer and Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake mentioned as a top target this month.

But the London club have been keeping tabs on England international and have now approached Brighton over a possible winter deal. Lewis has enjoyed a solid campaign, adapting quickly to the possession-based style of football advocated by coach Graham Potter to add to his already uncompromising defending.

Dunk is extremely highly rated by Brighton, and they value him at £50m a fee that would make him the second most expensive English defender behind only Harry Maguire. Dunk is believed to be one of several centre-backs targets being looked at, with Ake who can be bought back for £40m.

Interestingly, Leicester City tried to sign the 28-year-old centre-back as a replacement for Maguire when he moved to Man United, but he opted to remain at the Amex, while the Foxes were reluctant to pay Brighton’s then £30m asking price.

Brighton would not block a move to London club even midway through the campaign and would not want to stand in his way of joining such a big club. A transfer to London club would give Lewis the chance to test himself in the UCL, with Chelsea taking on Bayern Munich, and perhaps even force his way into England’s squad for Euro 2020.