Bengaluru, February 7: Cagliari starlet Nicolo Barella turned down a January transfer to Chelsea for "personal reasons", according to reports in England.
Chelsea reportedly had a £44million bid accepted by the Serie A side, but the 21-year-old midfielder decided to stay in Italy until the end of the season rather than joining the Blues.
Maurizio Sarri saw Barella as a replacement for Cesc Fabregas, who left Stamford Bridge for Monaco last month.
Chelsea's assistant manager Gianfranco Zola had even personally called the midfielder multiple times in order to convince him to join the Blues. But reports in Italy claim that Barella turned down the move despite Cagliari accepting Chelsea's £44m bid.
The Blues offered the midfielder a five-year contract and a substantial pay rise to his current salary, but the Italian rejected it for "personal reasons". The 21-year-old is thought to be delaying his transfer move till the end of the season as his wife is pregnant with their second child.
The box-to-box midfielder has shone in Italy this season and scored one goal in 20 Serie A games so far. Juventus and AC Milan legend Andrea Pirlo even branded him as "one of the best midfielders in Italy".
Barella's impressive form has earned him comparisons to the likes of Liverpool legend Steven Gerard and resulted in a senior debut for Italy last October.
Chelsea will have to compete for Barella's signature with Manchester United, who are thought to be in the mix for his services.
And Barella would reportedly find it "impossible to say no" if the Red Devils came knocking on Cagliari's door. He is a boyhood fan of the Manchester giants and Chelsea will be worried about that if they want to continue their interest in the playmaker.