CHELSEA have emerged as favourites to sign Ireland defender Seamus Coleman (above) from Everton in a £22 million deal next summer.
The Donegal native (23) - who has also been linked with Manchester United - has been identified as a big-name target by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who sees the right-sided defender as ideal competition for current first-choice right-full Branislav Ivanovic.
Coleman has emerged as one of the best right backs in the Premier League since his £60,000 from Sligo Rovers in 2009, and Everton are rumoured to have been scouting for possible replacements, having made enquiries about Barcelona's 23-year-old Martin Montoya.
Mourinho is keen to do business early and Chelsea are likely to be the first club to make Everton a concrete offer for Coleman's services, as the title-chasing Blues will look to the early purchases of striker Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid and Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona last summer as the best way to do business.
However, Chelsea's interest may spark United boss Louis van Gaal into action as he seeks to strengthen his lacklustre defence.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez recently hailed Coleman and Leighton Baines as "the best pair of full backs in England."