COMMENT: Different faces. Different roles. But the desire remains the same: Chelsea want Philippe Coutinho.
From PSG and an airport lounge muddying negotiations almost three years ago, to having to take a backseat to ambitions of pulling on a Barcelona shirt, Chelsea have long been in contact with Coutinho. Always in the background. And well aware that London and Stamford Bridge is an attraction for the Brazilian.
So now negotiations are underway. And for those paying attention, that things are moving so smoothly - and quickly - can be no surprise. Even just a year ago, Coutinho - via his prime agent Kia Joorabchian - made soundings to Chelsea that he'd like to hear their plans. Of course, such ambitions - from both sides of the table - were quickly knocked on the head thanks to FIFA and that short-lived transfer ban.
But now things are in play. Coutinho is in play. Well, at least in theory. As we've learned this week from Italy, on instructions from his client, Joorabchian is negotiating exclusively with Chelsea. Juventus have tried. As have Inter Milan. But the feedback has been: for now, it's Chelsea or bust.
And at £60m, even with all the grand predictions of a collapsed transfer market (where these experts get their numbers only they know), Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's billionaire owner, knows they'll be getting a bargain.
Which is exactly what both Joorabchian and Frank Lampard, the Blues manager, have pitched to Abramovich's No2, managing director Marina Granovskaia. Virtually half the fee Barca paid Liverpool two years ago. And for a player, in the colours of Bayern Munich, who in December ran a Werder Bremen team ragged. A hat-trick and two assists for the Brazilian in Bayern's 6-1 rout. Yeah, such performances haven't been the norm during this loan, but as he proved against Werder, Coutinho can still produce them.
That's what Lampard will be banking on. And at 60 million quid, he knows such a bargain is unlikely to come around again.
You really do fear for Salford City if Gary Neville actually has a say on the finances there. The former Manchester United captain wagging his finger at Chelsea this week, wondering aloud how the players will feel discussing pay-cuts while there's news of management approving a move for Coutinho. All the while, blissfully unaware of the context of short-term pay-cuts to assist cashflow and the long-term method of payments involved in multi-million pound transfers. The two, with the promise of better times ahead, are simply unconnected.
Chelsea's players will know this. At least their advisers will. And there'll be an understanding - and zero resentment - regarding negotiations for Coutinho. This is a player to lift the entire squad. A player who will improve those around him. And one to fill the void left by Eden Hazard.
On-loan with Bayern, those close to Coutinho say it's a confidence problem. But it must be highlighted, he's also seen a change of coach, a change of system and a change of approach. From being in transition, Bayern reverted midseason to the trusted old-hands and under Hansi Flick saw the team revived. But as he did against Werder, Coutinho proved he still had it.
Giovane Elber, the former Brazil and Bayern striker, says Coutinho was overcomplicating things: "He has to stay calm before the next game. What was yesterday or the day before yesterday cannot be changed, only learned from. For example, look at what he did wrong in the last games. You have to change this, with a simpler passing game and find his way back to his game. After that, you can also play the difficult pass."
Bayern's chief exec Karl-Heinz Rummenigge also concedes Coutinho has shone, but has battled for confidence: "He played some games well and in some games he gives the impression that he is a bit inhibited."
So he'll also be a project for Lampard. A player who has everything to again be a world-beater - but will need his confidence and self-belief rebuilding.
And it can be argued that this Chelsea team, in their current phase of development, offers Coutinho the ideal environment to recapture the magic he produced week-in, week-out at Liverpool. He may be "reserved", even "shy", as Elber says, but Coutinho also thrives as being the team's prime focus. Something he hasn't enjoyed this season with Bayern, nor at Barca.
As Coutinho's former U17 coach at Vasco da Gama, Rodney Gonclaves highlights: "The whole world has fueled a huge expectation. Everyone knew that Barcelona is all about (Lionel) Messi, the game is aimed at him. Almost every player will have problems there. That's why Neymar left Barcelona."
And the same fate befell Coutinho. But at Chelsea, under Lampard, the Brazilian will arrive with an expectation of being that on-field leader. He'll again be one others are looking to feed, rather just another cog in the wheel.
His old manager at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp, long predicted the problems Coutinho has faced. He knew what made his former No10 tick: "Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bavaria, to Real Madrid, and you will be one of many there. You can be more here."
And today, for Coutinho, "here" again means England - only this time it's London and the Blue of Chelsea. A Chelsea in transition. One that's screaming out for a new fulcrum. And one, after three years of attempts, that can finally land Coutinho for a bargain fee.