By Chelsea correspondent Tony Hughes
Chelsea are preparing to make an offer for Ezequiel Garay as they target an alternative to John Stones, Football Insider sources understand.
The Londoners have been offered the Zenit St Petersburg defender by super agent Jorge Mendes, who has a close relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and whose clients at Stamford Bridge include Jose Mourinho, Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao.
Mourinho regards Garay as a possible alternative to Stones, who Chelsea are running out of time to prise from Everton.
The Premier League champions have had three bids rejected for the England centre-back by the Merseysiders and a transfer request from Stones has failed to force his club’s hand.
Chelsea are still hopeful of succeeding in their attempt to sign Stones but are eyeing Garay as an alternative, with Mourinho keen to reinforce his defence before the transfer window closes next Tuesday.
Garay, 28, joined Zenit from Benfica last summer for £14million and is rated in the £20million bracket by the Russian club given the four years he has remaining on his contract.
He lacks Stones’ potential to improve but his experience and pedigree is highly regarded by Mourinho, who appears to be gradually phasing out the John Terry-Gary Cahill central defensive axis that was the bedrock of his team’s title triumph last season.
Garay has 31 caps for Argentina and his former clubs include Real Madrid.
The Garay Chelsea move demonstrates how far owner Roman Abramovich is willing to back Mourinho in this summer’s transfer market.