Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc quipped Erling Haaland is “already in England” when quizzed on why the sought-after striker missed training.
Haaland, 20, was due to report for Dortmund’s pre-season preparations on Monday but failed to show.
Traditionally, downing tools and not turning up for training has been a method used to force through transfers in the summer window.
Haaland is one of the most-coveted players in Europe and the latest reports suggest Chelsea are readying an enormous €200million (£150m) bid for his services.
But Zorc laughed off speculation surrounding the Norwegian and had a sarcastic response when quizzed on his absence.
“He’s already in England,” the Dortmund chief told Sky Sport Germany when pressed on Haaland’s whereabouts.
The former Red Bull Salzburg man plundered 41 goals in as many games last season and has three years remaining on his contract at Westfalenstadion.
Many of Haaland’s suitors, with Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich also in that number, would prefer to wait until next year to table an offer.
That is because it is claimed the player has a release clause which will come into force in the region of €75million (£64m) to €100million (£85m).
But Chelsea’s crucial advantage over their rival admirers is they have the financial power at present to submit a bid double the size of the alleged release clause.
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This could allow them to get the deal over the line this summer and tie down one of the continent’s brightest prospects to a long-term deal at Stamford Bridge.
Haaland has hardly discussed his future since the end of last season, but appeared to suggest he would honour his Dortmund deal when speaking in May.
“I have a contract for a couple of years, so I am respectful towards my contract,” he said.
“I am a simple guy. When I like something I just want to have more – when I score a goal, I always chase the next goal.”
But Haaland’s absence from pre-season training raises questions of his dedication to the German giants.
Recent speculation suggests Chelsea have even entered initial discussions with the player’s representative, super-agent Mino Raiola.
Meanwhile, the Blues also submitted an enquiry to Tottenham after Harry Kane informed the club he would like to leave, although Spurs chief Daniel Levy is loath to let the striker depart, let alone to their bitter rivals.