CHELSEA boss Antonio Conte has earmarked Barcelona star Sergi Roberto as a replacement for Cesc Fabregas much to the concern of Lionel Messi, according to reports.
Chelsea star Fabregas could leave in the summer with his contract expiring at the end of next season (2019).
Manchester United have been tipped to secure his signature, with Jose Mourinho keen on a reunion with the player who helped him win the Premier League title back in 2015.
Fabregas has blossomed at Chelsea following the departure of Nemanja Matic but, despite his fine form, a contract extension is yet to be signed.
And Spanish outlet Don Balon claim that the Blues have made Barcelona utility man Roberto a priority target going into the January transfer window.
Roberto has struggled for game time at Barcelona following the arrival of Ernesto Valverde as manager.
Which players are the bookies tipping Conte to sign in January? Odds by Sky Bet
His own deal at the Nou Camp expires in 2019 but Barcelona are having trouble tying him down to an extension.
Both Manchester clubs are said to be interested in snapping him up.
But Don Balon say Chelsea also want him with manager Conte a huge admirer.
The Italian supposedly views him as the perfect replacement for Fabregas, with Chelsea now seemingly resigned to letting him go.
However, Messi does not want the player to leave Barcelona.
Roberto and Messi have struck up a close relationship during their time in Catalonia together.
And he wants the club to accelerate a new deal for Roberto in order to fend off Chelsea’s advances.
Clubs can sign Roberto for £35million if they meet his release clause.
And, should he fail to sign a contract extension with Barcelona, then Chelsea will be waiting with welcome arms.