The Mail on Sunday says Real Madrid have stepped up their interest in Essien and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic attended Chelsea's Champions League win over Fenerbahce earlier this month, a visit which is believed to have included a meeting with Stamford Bridge chief executive Peter Kenyon and talks with Essien's agent.

Real may offer Brazil star Robinho and Dutch winger Royston Drenthe to reduce the £30million it would cost to secure Essien.