Chelsea have seen a new bid for Moises Caicedo rejected by Brighton.
The Seagulls are said to have instantly turned down the offer, believed to be around £80m, for the 21-year-old Ecuadorian.
Caicedo — who has been linked with Liverpool — has been Chelsea's number one midfield target this summer, while the Athletic reports that player and club have already agreed personal terms on a move this summer.
Transfer reporter Ben Jacobs has claimed that Caicedo's representatives are in a state of 'disbelief' over Brighton's refusal to sell the player, with the midfielder's camp now considering their position.
However, with Caicedo having signed a contract extension until 2027 back in March, Brighton are prepared to play hardball and reject any bids that don't meet their whopping £100m valuation.
So, what does this mean for Liverpool?
Well, a number of outlets have claimed that Chelsea are already looking at 'plan B' options if they can't secure primary target Caicedo – and among those is one Romeo Lavia.
The Chelsea counter is coming. #CFC ready to move for Lavia and even prepared to table a higher offer than #LFC, having bid £50m for him a year ago. But Lavia is still sold on Liverpool. A move to Anfield remains more likely at this stage.😇 https://t.co/kF7Jt9aqqf
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) July 27, 2023
Liverpool's latest bid for Lavia is expected to total £45m including add-ons, while the Saints' valuation for their player is thought to be £50m.
No strangers to throwing around big fees, it's not hard to believe that Chelsea could raise Liverpool's offer — especially considering that Southampton's asking price is still only half of what is required to land Caicedo.
Meanwhile, Belgian transfer reporter Sacha Tavolieri has claimed that Chelsea's head of recruitment Joe Shields is particularly keen on bringing Lavia to Stamford Bridge and is 'pressing' for the move.
Interestingly, Shields worked in scouting roles at Manchester City and Southampton when both clubs signed Lavia.
It's potentially worrying for Liverpool.
The idea of a Chelsea transfer hijacking bringing back bad memories of Florent Malouda, Mohamed Salah and Timo Werner.
Leading the race
Despite all this, the Reds still seem to be in pole position for Lavia.
Jacobs concedes that the Belgium international is 'sold on Liverpool' and that an Anfield switch 'remains more likely at this stage'.
This is agreed by Fabrizio Romano. Speaking on his Here We Go podcast the reporter said: "Liverpool will try to be fast for Romeo Lavia as they know Chelsea are still keeping an eye on the situation. If Liverpool don't close, Chelsea are there.
"However, Liverpool are the big favourites."
Tavolieri — who even previously claimed that Lavia could even undergo a medical this week in order to be ready to join Liverpool on their pre-season trip to Singapore — agrees that 'a reversal of fortune seems unlikely at this stage' with the player seemingly set on Anfield.
However, the real down side is that Chelsea's late interest could help Southampton in negotiations to squeeze the full £50m from Liverpool.
Having already confirmed Jordan Henderson's £12m move to Al-Ettifaq, the Reds are expected to finalise the paperwork on Fabinho's £40m move to Al-Ittihad this week, potentially freeing up resources to complete the Lavia transfer.