Chelsea have completed the £58million signing of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund and installed their contingency plan in case Eden Hazard leaves in the summer.
USA international Pulisic will spend the rest of the season at Dortmund before making the switch by which time Hazard have only 12 months remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard is prepared to delay a final decision on his future until the season is over as he waits on a signal from Real Madrid.
Chelsea were determined to strike early for Pulisic to beat competition from rivals, including Liverpool and Arsenal, and have paid a premium on the price.
Only goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Alvaro Morata have cost the club more and this is a large fee for a young player with a contract due to expire at the end of next season.
But it avoids the added pressure and price hikes which will inevitably occur if Hazard is sold and it addresses the lingering threat of a transfer ban as FIFA continue to investigate Chelsea for allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the international transfer of Under-16s.
Sportsmail exclusively revealed in November that the American attacking midfielder was set for a switch to Stamford Bridge as Dortmund accepted they had to cash in on a player who was out of contract in 2020.
Pulisic can operate as a wide attacker in Maurizio Sarri’s style and is at an age with plenty of scope to develop and improve.
We are delighted to have signed one of Europe’s most sought-after young players,’ said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.
‘Christian has shown his quality during a fantastic spell in Germany and at just 20 we believe he has the potential to become an important Chelsea player for many years to come.’
Hazard has an offer on the table worth more than £300,000 a week if a move to Spain does not materialise and has made it clear he would be happy to stay at Stamford Bridge.
It is the lure of Real Madrid rather than a desire to escape Chelsea which has made it such a difficult decision for the 27-year-old Belgian.
Sarri would certainly not complain if both Hazard and Pulisic were at his disposal next season but the delaying tactics have forced a move.
Only last week, the Chelsea manager urged the board to be decisive over the Hazard situation even though a central striker remains his priority in this transfer window.
They have answered his call by completing the deal for Pulisic, who joined Dortmund at the age of 16.
‘It was always Christian’s dream to play in the Premier League,’ said Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc.
‘That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract. Against this background, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid by Chelsea, given the low contract maturity.’
Pulisic has been forced out of the team in recent weeks by the emergence of England international Jadon Sancho.
Zorc added: ‘I am sure in the coming months he will do everything in his power to bring his high quality to the team and to achieve his sporting goals with his team-mates Borussia Dortmund.’
After confirmation of the move, the 20-year-old midfielder said: ‘In summer I move on to Chelsea and to a new competition, the English Premier League. It’s a privilege to have signed for such a legendary club and I look forward to working hard towards being a contributor to their team of world class players.’