Chelsea are planning to launch a loan-to-buy bid to land Everton defender Lucas Digne, according to a fresh report.
As per Spanish outlet Tódófíchájés, the reigning European champions have idenitified the Frenchman as a possible recruit next month as they look to reinforce their options on the left-side of defence.
First choice wing-back Ben Chilwell suffered a partially-ruptured ACL in November and may require surgery in the near future, while deputy option Marcos Alonso has struggled to produce his best form since returning to the starting XI.
For his part, speculation has mounted surrounding Digne’s future after a reported falling out with Benitez over the Spaniard’s tactics. The 28-year-old has not featured in either of the Toffees’ last two outings.
With that in mind, Chelsea are understood to be hopeful of luring the French international to Stamford Bridge with an initial loan deal that would also include an option to make the transfer permanent for a fee of around £21.3 million in the summer.
What is Digne’s current situation?
Digne hasn’t featured in either of Everton’s last two matches, but had seemingly been set for against Chelsea on Thusday night.
The Toffees are currently in the midst of a testing injury crisis, and that - combined with the Frenchman’s obvious quality - had looked as if it would be enough to convince Benitez to recall him to his starting XI.
The Spaniard revealed on Wednesday, however, that Digne was now unlikely to feature against his reported suitors because of illness.
He told a press conference: “Lucas Digne is a good player and was an important player for us. Yesterday we did a training session and he was in the 11.
“Today he said he is ill and is not available.”
How likely are Chelsea to seal a deal for Digne?
It’s hard to say for certain.
For one thing, losing a player of Digne’s quality would always represent a blow to a side like Everton, and the hope among supporters will be that reports of animosity between the player and Benitez are not as severe as his prolonged absence would seemingly suggest.
In terms of whether Goodison Park chiefs would be tempted by a loan-to-buy offer, only they will know for definite, but Tódófíchájés claim that the player himself would be happy with a move “upwards”.
Chelsea are far from the only side who are understood to be sniffing around the supposedly unsettled Digne, though.
Over the weekend, Fichajes reported that Atletico Madrid are interested in taking the 43-cap international back to La Liga in the winter window too.
What are the fans saying?
A lot of Everton fans are understandably eager to see Digne return to the starting XI, and appear to have sided with him over the manager - even if there are some vocal doubters from certain sections of the fanbase questioning the legitimacy of his anticipated absence against Chelsea.
@Wendy_2300 tweeted: “Allergic to Benitez’s football? We’ve all got it. Lucas Digne - you have our full support. We know. We just pray the right person stays and the other one is sacked before the situation gets even worse.”
@efceddiee tweeted: “He’s not gonna play another game for us, is he?”
@jayefc1983 tweeted: “What the hell does he [Benitez] mean ‘was’ an important player? He better not be moving him [Digne] out the club”
Many Chelsea fans were somewhat more enthused by the prospect of the Frenchman seeking pastures new, however.
@TysonCreme tweeted: “Everton project is a bust. We should just bring Lucas Digne to The Bridge in January.”
@wilnyaf tweeted: “Get Digne in January and donate Alonso to charity”
@CFCCentral3 tweeted: “I suggest Digne because he’s fallen out with Benitez, on low wages, PL proven & will be an able deputy at 30.”