Multiple sources told ESPN that Liverpool are the front-runners in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, despite interest from Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Real Madrid.

According to a source with a competing bidder club, Liverpool is developing a close relationship with the player’s camp, which may play a big role.

Although both the player and his father, Mark, have previously publicly denied the idea that a decision on his next club has been made, another source claimed that the general framework of a deal to take Bellingham to Anfield may even be advancing.

The most obvious ray of hope for Liverpool’s rivals lies in Dortmund’s valuation, as the Bundesliga club is expected to permit Bellingham to leave either in January or, more likely, next summer.

Dortmund was thought to accept a fee of around €100 million, but reports this week suggested that amount could increase to €150 million.

The interested clubs still hold out hope that the final price will be closer to the lower range, but the presence of several heavyweights could spark a bidding war, and Bellingham’s stock may rise given that he is likely to play a significant role in England’s World Cup squad in Qatar.

Liverpool want to revitalise their midfield and opted against making a big-money move in the summer — signing Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus instead — choosing to wait for Bellingham.

The Reds are prepared to spend a fortune to sign him, but their finances would be severely strained if they missed out on the Champions League next season.

With N’Golo Kante and Jorginho entering the final year of their contracts, Chelsea’s new owners, led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, are determined to assemble a younger team of next generation talent and see Bellingham as the perfect candidate to strengthen their midfield.

In 2020, United tried to sign Bellingham, but he opted to join Dortmund.

Real Madrid continue to lurk

Bellingham of Dortmund is reportedly one of Real Madrid’s top targets for the upcoming summer, according to sources.

Although Los Blancos are aware that Premier League clubs are vying for his signature, they view the signing of the 19-year-old as a top priority as they attempt to continue rejuvenating a midfield that is still captained by the 37-year-old Luka Modric.

In previous transfer windows, Madrird strengthened their midfield by bringing in Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.

Bellingham is now viewed by the Spanish club as the perfect addition to complete a line where Federico Valverde has emerged as crucial on the right flank.