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Chelsea in talks with Witsel as Malouda, Benayoun and Essien put up for sale

Chelsea will look to offload Florent Malouda, Yossi Benayoun and Michael Essien in order to fund a move for Benfica midfielder Alex Witsel according to a Footy Bunker source.

Despite having already signed Eden Hazard and Marko Marin this summer Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo is keen to strengthen his midfield even further with a move for Belgium international Witsel.

The highly-rated 23-year-old is valued at around £20 million by the Portuguese club and are reportedly willing to cash in putting Di Matteo on red alert.

Witsel played a key role in Benfica’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals last season attracting the attention of several top European clubs in the process.

Premier League rivals Manchester United are also said to be interested but the West London club are hoping their Belgian contingent can lure him to Stamford Bridge.

However, owner Roman Abramovich isn’t willing to sanction any more spending until Di Matteo has balanced the books having forked out around £40m for Hazard and Marin.

Malouda could be the first to leave after Santos claim to have had held ‘informal’ talks with the 32-year who’s scored 45 goals in 229 appearances since joining from Lyon in 2007 and is one of the highest earners at Chelsea.

A move to Brazil has long been mooted with Vasco da Gama thought to be tracking his progress but Santos vice-president Odilio Rodrigues revealed they’ve been in discussions with the France midfielder.

“We have only had informal talks,” Rodrigues told Lancenet.

Shifting Essien won’t be as simple with limited interest in the Ghanian midfielder following his length spells on the sidelines with a knee injury that has limited his pitch time in the last two-years.

Israeli midfielder Benyaoun was farmed out on on-loan to Arsenal last term by former coach Andre Villas-Boas after returning from an achilles injury scoring six times in 25 game at the Emirates Stadium.

West Ham United were linked with bringing the 32-year-old back to Upton Park only for their interest to cool with the player now ready to fight for his future at Chelsea.