Chelsea were last night locked in talks with Portsmouth over a deal to take England defender Glen Johnson back to Stamford Bridge, for a fee that could eventually reach £17million, despite interest from Liverpool.
The right back, sold by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho for £4m less than two years ago, is with the England camp in Kazakhstan, where he is expected to win his 14th cap on Saturday.
For Liverpool it will mean they have been stunned for the second day in succession by the speed of movement, and money on offer, of a transfer rival. Only 24 hours earlier, they lost out to Manchester City for Gareth Barry.
The Anfield club may respond today with an increased offer, but manager Rafa Benitez needs to sell first and they cannot match Chelsea's spending power.
That means Johnson, 24, is set to follow Daniel Sturridge into Stamford Bridge, with the deal probably completed early next week.
It is believed England coach Fabio Capello recommended Johnson to new Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Johnson, then with West Ham, was Roman Abramovich's first signing for the club and, despite failing to impress Mourinho, has since become one of the most cultured full backs in Europe.
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday how Johnson was part of Ancelotti's wish-list when he took over from Guus Hiddink.
It is thought Johnson's conduct since leaving the club, as well as his playing development, has impressed Chelsea. He refused to criticise them and admitted he had to improve his game.
One source said yesterday: 'He has behaved in a mature manner, as well as improving as a player with regular first-team football. Roman always liked him because of his attacking dare as a full back.
Jose did not always agree, but he's not at the club any more, is he?'
Former Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is close to becoming manager of Uzbekistan and the country's biggest club, Bunyodkor.