By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Chelsea have made Everton duo Romelu Lukaku and John Stones two of their priority summer targets, Football Insider sources understand.
Newly-appointed manager Antonio Conte has already held discussions with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy about a rebuilding programme in the forthcoming transfer window.
A well-placed Chelsea source has told Football Insider that the Italian has pinpointed former Chelsea striker Lukaku to strengthen the team’s forward line and Stones as the defensive leader to replace John Terry.
The Londoners are willing to set aside £90million to land Lukaku and Stones, who are rated at £50million and £40million respectively by Everton.
The Merseysiders are in a strong position to play hardball during negotiations, just as they were last summer when they rejected three Chelsea bids for Stones, with the final one amounting to £34milliion.
With billionaire Farhad Moshiri buying a majority stake in the club last month and the mammoth new TV deal to come into effect in August, Everton will consider themselves well positioned to fend off interest in two of their star players.
A move for Lukaku would constitute a major U-turn from Chelsea after they sold him to Everton in the summer of 2014 for £28million following Jose Mourinho’s decision to allow him to leave Stamford Bridge.
The Belgium international, who was initially signed by the west Londoners in 2011 from Anderlecht, barely got a look-in at Chelsea and had season-long loans at West Brom and Everton before the Merseysiders signed him permanently.
However, the 23-year-old has developed impressively at Everton and has scored 25 goals in 37 matches in all competitions this season, of which 18 have come from 29 Premier League appearances.
With Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato all expected to leave Chelsea this summer, Conte wants at least one, and more likely, two new forwards.