Chelsea can begin talks with wantaway Bayern Munich star David Alaba next month after the Bundesliga giants admitted defeat on keeping hold of the defender, the Sun reports.
Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted the Austrian international will head for the exit after more than a decade at the club, leaving the way clear for Chelsea to begin pre-contract negotiations in January.
The 28-year-old is out of contract with the Bundesliga champions at the end of the season, with efforts to agree a new deal – which began in the summer – having stalled.
Rummenigge said: “Bayern did everything we could to try and reach an agreement.
“We had a lot of conversations, but we wanted answers from him by the end of October.
“He’s free to speak to whoever he wants from January 1.”
Chelsea are likely to face competition from a raft of suitors, including Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Mail report that United have already made a formal enquiry with Alaba’s representatives.
But the Sun reports the Blues are believed to be leading the race as Frank Lampard aims to bolster his back-line.
The versatile Alaba can play at left-back as well as centre-back, and can also be deployed in midfield.
A move for Alaba would be Chelsea’s fourth raid on the Bundesliga in recent seasons following last summer’s signing of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, and Christian Pulisic in 2019.