Chelsea will make Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland their top target as Thibaut Courtois failed to report back for pre‑season training at the Premier League club.
The Belgium international, like his compatriot Eden Hazard, had been due on Monday afternoon at Chelsea’s Cobham training base where the new head coach hoped to hold discussions over his future. Instead, the 26-year-old is understood to have remained in Belgium while he awaits news of a prospective return to Spain with Real Madrid.
Courtois has entered the final 12 months of his contract, with no progress having been made last season to convince the player, who spent three years on loan at Atlético Madrid earlier in his career, to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea had anticipated him joining the England defender Gary Cahill in the stands to watch the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday but the goalkeeper did not appear, offering no explanation, as his teammates lost 2-0.
Courtois has won two Premier League titles with the Blues but is in the final year of his contract, and his agent has asked Chelsea to let the Belgian join Real Madrid.
Chelsea is reluctant to do so until they have acquired a suitable replacement and have switched their attention to Butland after Everton refused to negotiate over Jordan Pickford – who was England’s No 1 ahead of Butland at the World Cup.
According to reports, there has already been informal contact between Chelsea and Stoke City at boardroom level over a possible deal for Butland.
The Sky Bet Championship club would be prepared to allow Butland to leave for around £30m but want any deal to be resolved quickly, so they would have time to buy a replacement themselves.
Butland was England’s number 2 at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
He has played 78 times for Stoke since joining from Birmingham in 2013.