Chelsea have tabled a last-minute bid for Fulham striker Louis Saha, according to the Evening Standard.

The surprise move could spark a bidding war for the French forward or derail Manchester United’s prolonged pursuit of their top January transfer target. Saha was thought to be close to completing a move to Old Trafford after United agreed to meet Fulham’s asking price of £12m for the thirteen-goal forward.

Newspaper reports this morning claimed that United and Fulham had finally agreed a fee for the former Metz forward, who has been unsettled since news of Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest emerged last month. Fulham are reluctant to let Saha leave given how he has powered their surge into the upper reaches of the top flight this season – but Chris Coleman would be able to plough the proceeds from the deal into strengthening his first team squad.

Chelsea’s late move is thought to be the branchild of chief executive Peter Kenyon, who left Old Trafford for Stamford Bridge last summer, and would take their spending on strikers to north of £60m this season.