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Chelsea want to sign Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte - sources

Antonio Conte wants to start his summer squad strengthening programme at Chelsea by signing Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, sources have told ESPN FC.

Chelsea can seal the Premier League title with a win at West Bromwich Albion on Friday, but Conte, who remains a target for Inter Milan, is determined to move quickly in order to add to his squad ahead of the club's return to the Champions League next season.

The former Italy manager is keen for defensive reinforcements due to John Terry's planned departure from Stamford Bridge and Gary Cahill approaching his 32nd birthday later this year, as well as identifying the need for a stronger, deeper squad in order to compete on all fronts during the 2017-18 campaign.

Laporte, who turns 23 on May 27, had been expected to join Manchester City last summer after being pursued by Pep Guardiola, but the France under-21 international instead chose to extend his contract at Bilbao until the end of the 2019-20 season.

Aymeric Laporte (right) has made 32 La Liga appearances this season.

By signing a new deal at San Mames, Laporte secured a buy-out clause of €65 million (£54.6m), which will increase to €70m (£58.9m) from the 2018-19 campaign onwards.

City and Guardiola remain admirers of the 6-foot-2 centre-half, but the lure of playing for the champions-elect, and living in London, could prove decisive in the club's attempts to sign Laporte.

Chelsea head into the summer with uncertainty surrounding the futures of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, respectively, keen on the two players.

But despite the speculation surrounding Costa and Hazard, and Inter's ongoing interest in Conte, the Chelsea manager is making plans for player recruitment, with owner Roman Abramovich prepared to back the former Juventus coach in his bid to make the club competitive once again in the Champions League.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_

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