Chelsea are preparing to hijack Manchester United’s move for Roma defender Mehdi Benatia, according to the Express.

The centre back is one of the most highly rated in Italy, and was an integral part of the Roma side that finished runners up to Juventus in Serie A last season.

Louis van Gaal is a big admirer of the 27-year-old, and is said to have stepped up his interest after former target Thomas Vermalaen agreed on a switch to Barcelona.

The Dutchman is determined to add at least one new centre back to fit into his new 3-5-2 system, with Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones the only centre backs at his disposal at present.

However, Jose Mourinho could look to scupper those plans by launching a £30million bid of his own for Benatia.

The Chelsea boss has said there will be no more signings at Stamford Bridge this summer, but would like to add another centre back after selling David Luiz to Paris St Germain for £50million.

Mourinho is ready to step up his interest in the Roma star, having missed out on top target Eliaquim Mangala, who is set to join Manchester City from Porto.