Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini has confirmed that Chelsea wanted to sign midfielder Nicolò Barella in January.
The Blues had just sold Cesc Fábregas to Monaco and Maurizio Sarri was keen to add another option to his ranks.
However, a deal failed to materialise, with Barella now likely to spark a summer bidding war for his €50m clause.
“Barella was never close to a January exit,” he told Corriere dello Sport. “But there was concrete interest.
“Napoli were pushing and Maurizio Sarri also wanted him at Chelsea. As for Inter, that was just a chat, nothing more.
Nicolò Barella: Has won possession in the attacking third more times (24) than any other player in Serie A this season
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 23, 2019
“I don’t know what his future holds, but he is a player who can grow a great deal more. We hope he can continue to do that while wearing our jersey.
“It’s banal to make the comparison, but he does remind me of Radja Nainggolan, even if Nicolò is more technically-gifted than Radja.”
The 22-year-old has seen his impressive domestic form rewarded with a call-up from Italy manager Roberto Mancini.