Chelsea players expect attacker to join by start of next week

By Chelsea correspondent Tony Hughes| Premier League expert with experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this

Players in the Chelsea squad expect Alexandre Pato to seal a move to the club by the start of next week, Football Insider sources understand.

The Premier League champions are closing in on a deal for the Brazil striker this month following fresh talks with his representatives.

A Chelsea source has told Football Insider that personal terms have been agreed in principle between Pato and the Londoners after he was given permission by his club Corinthians to negotiate a transfer.

Pato has spoken to Chelsea star Willian about the possibility of a move and is said to be confident of completing a move to Stamford Bridge.

There is a growing sense among Guus Hiddink’s squad that Pato could be a Blues player by the start of next week, although he will require a work permit to play in the UK before the deal would become official.

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Chelsea will now step up talks with the Brazilian outfit about a transfer fee for the 26-year-old, who is rated in the £8-10million bracket by Corinthians.

The Premier League giants may prefer to agree a loan with an option to buy in the summer, which would give the club the opportunity to assess Pato for the rest of the season.

Pato has just completed a relatively productive two-year loan spell at Sao Paolo but has fallen out of favour at his parent club, partly due to fitness issues.

Both parties are keen on a transfer to take place and Pato is said to be intent upon moving to the Premier League. He rejected a lucrative offer from the Chinese Second Division side, Tianjin Quanjian, earlier this month and his agents instead made known the player’s availability to a number of English clubs.

Pato has not played competitive football since November so will lack the required match fitness to step straight into the first-team.

Moody blues: Injury-plagued Falcao is a shadow of his former self

Nevertheless, the forward has considerable pedigree. He has slipped down the pecking order for the Brazil national team but has a creditable record of 10 goals in 28 matches for his country, as well as 63 in 150 matches for AC Milan, where he spent five-and-a-half years.

Chelsea are keen provide forward back-up to Diego Costa as they attempt to salvage something from a wretched season. They have made enquiries for Sadio Berahino and Jamie Vardy but are not hopeful of signing either of them.

Costa is the undisputed first choice at Stamford Bridge, but, the only other options Radamel Falcao, who is out until March with a thigh injury, and Loic Remy have scored just four goals between them this season.

The Spain international is in a race against time to be fit for Sunday’s Premier League showdown against Arsenal after suffering heavy bruising to his shin in the 3-3 draw with Everton last Saturday.