CHELSEA have sensationally entered the race to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, in the hope it helps keep Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge.
The Real Madrid superstar stunned world football this week when it emerged he wants out of the Bernabeu after being accused of tax evasion.
It is believed Ronaldo, 32, has his heart set on a Manchester United return – with Madrid willing to do business for a fee of £175million.
But Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is prepared to stump up to land the Portuguese star – if that is what it takes to secure Conte’s future in west London.
The Blues boss is stalling over contract negotiations due the champions’ lack of activity in the transfer market.
And it is claimed Abramovich hopes launching a bid for Ronaldo will show Conte he is serious about making big-name signings.
Chelsea could even use Eden Hazard – a player hugely admired at the Bernabeu – as bait to help steal a deal.
Bernabeu boss Zinedine Zidane is desperate to keep Ronaldo and Marca reported that he personally phoned the attacker to beg him to stay put.
But Ronaldo will not be short of offers, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain monitoring things, alongside the bottomless pit of cash that is the Chinese Super League.