CHELSEA have been marred by a shaky start to the season with just one win in their opening four Premier League games.
And off the pitch their search for a new shirt sponsor has not proven anymore fruitful, with players wearing blank tops as they look for a replacement for previous sponsor Three.
But all that could be about to change after the club reportedly met with representatives from Saudi state airline Riyadh Air.
The Athletic report there are three leading candidates for the vacant shirt sponsor slot, with Chelsea looking for a front-of-shirt package worth up to £60million a year for both men and women teams.
The first of these is the aforementioned Riyadh Air.
The airline are already sponsors for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and are owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), who are the majority owner of Newcastle.
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A company delegation is said to have been hosted by Chelsea chiefs, including chief executive Chris Jurasek, during the 1-0 defeat against Nottingham Forest.
The Blues are said to have pitched a multi-year deal for both the men's and women's teams.
The second contender is betting website Kaiyun Sports, who recently announced a two-year partnership with Forest and already have a partnership with Chelsea.
Kaiyun have a reportedly dubious background, appearing to target customers in China – where gambling is illegal – and not being clear what country they are based in or who their owners are.
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The company are also said to access the UK market via a "white label" agreement.
However, Chelsea bosses are reportedly reassured by their partnerships with Real Madrid, Crystal Palace and Inter Milan.
The final name in the race, and the provisional frontrunner, is one who has already been in the news with the club – Infinite Athlete.
SunSport reported in August how Chelsea had agreed a £40m-a-year deal with Infinite Athlete for the rest of the season.
But it was then revealed the Prem could block the deal pending the outcome of an investigation after it was discovered Infinite were only founded a week before the offer.
The company formed when tech firm Tempus Ex Machina – who signed a seven-year-deal with Chelsea in April – acquired Biocore, with them merging to become Infinite Athlete.
Investment fund Silver Lake – who are an 18 per cent shareholder in the group which owns Manchester City – is also an investor in Infinite Athlete.
Chelsea are understood to prefer a longer-term deal, but are not deterred by investment into Man City by Infinite Athlete or Newcastle by Riyadh Air.
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However, there could be yet another curveball in the works, with the Athletic adding that sources have revealed a possible fourth-party in the form of a US tech company.
Chelsea will next be in action against Bournemouth on Sunday 17 September.
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