Chelsea spending could reach £300m with talks planned for big name signings
Chelsea are pushing to take their transfer spending close to a record £300million this summer as they finally step up their pursuit of a number of big-name targets with the Premier League season about to begin.
Talks are to take place with Barcelona over the potential signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and, separately, and more immediately, hijacking Manchester United’s protracted attempts to acquire midfielder Frenkie de Jong for an initial £63million.
At the same time Chelsea are bidding for Wesley Fofana although they are currently falling significantly short of Leicester City’s apparent valuation for the centre-half which is understood to be around £80million.
However despite Leicester’s determination to keep Fofana – they insist he is not for sale - Chelsea are hopeful a compromise can eventually be reached and believe that the 21-year-old Frenchman is keen to join them despite signing a new five-year contract in March.
Sources are even more confident that Chelsea are close to signing Marc Cucurella for a fee of £52.5million even though Brighton continue to claim a final agreement is yet to be reached for the defender who nevertheless handed in a transfer request. Cucurella is also not training with the first-team squad ahead of Brighton’s opening game away to Manchester United on Sunday.
Having already signed Raheem Sterling from City for an initial £47.5million, Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for £34million and Carney Chukwuemeka for £20million from Aston Villa – which was announced on Thursday - it means that the new Todd Boehly-led regime are prepared to commit close to an astonishing £300million in fees this summer.
That total would greatly surpass Chelsea’s previous record spending in one summer window of £220million in 2020 under Frank Lampard after the transfer ban was lifted under Roman Abramovich’s ownership. Indeed Chelsea could be heading for the highest spend committed by any club in one window although the deals, if they are all completed, will be off-set by a number of departures to, hopefully, vastly bring down the net spend.
Having allowed record signing Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter Milan on loan after an unhappy season at Stamford Bridge Chelsea are willing to listen to offers for Kepa Arrizabalaga, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Michy Batshuayi and Kenedy while they could cash in on Armando Broja and are in advanced talks to sell Levi Colwill to Brighton.
The future of Marcos Alonso is also unclear while Barcelona wanted Cesar Azpilicueta but the 32-year-old Chelsea captain has now signed a new two-year deal after telling the Spanish club he wanted his future sorted before the season began.
Barcelona had asked Azpilicueta to wait a few more days as they try and balance their books given their crippling finances and the £100million they have spent in bringing in Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha and with players they cannot even register because of the financial controls in La Liga.
Chelsea are trying to exploit this by making enquiries about Aubameyang, where the interest is tentative at present, and De Jong while Boehly has already also raised the possibility of swap deals.
There is a feeling that Barcelona might be becoming desperate and while coach Xavi Hernandez would rather keep Aubameyang the club could be willing to listen to offers. The 33-year-old striker joined Barcelona on a free transfer in February after Arsenal, where he was stripped of the captaincy, agreed to terminate his contract but he has a good relationship with Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel having worked with him at Borussia Dortmund.
The frantic activity in the market comes after Tuchel has grown increasingly frustrated with Chelsea’s slowness in their transfer business. Having lost Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen at the start of the window, Tuchel made it clear that he wanted three new defenders although attempts to sign Jules Kounde, who chose Barcelona, and Nathan Ake, who Manchester City decided against selling, failed. Chelsea decided against pushing for another defender, Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe, and lost out on Leeds United forward Raphinha who was determined to also join Barcelona.
Given Chelsea have also made enquiries for a number of other players – including Inter Milan full-back Denzil Dumfries and Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters – it leaves the club open to the accusation that it has taken something a scatter-gun approach to its transfer business in the first window since the £4.25billion takeover was completed in May. Boehly also held initial talks with Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes about signing the wantaway forward but did not pursue the deal with Tuchel adamant he wanted other players.
However should the club’s new hierarchy – with Boehly taking the role of acting director of football - land the players who have now emerged as their primary targets they will feel vindicated and will argue they have certainly strengthened the squad to mount a title challenge after finishing third last season albeit 19 points adrift of the champions, City, and 18 points behind second-placed Liverpool.
Following Chelsea’s 4-0 thrashing to Arsenal on their pre-season tour to the United States, Tuchel declared that they could not currently compete with the top two and were in “urgent” need of quality players and he has been pushing hard behind-the-scenes for changes to be made. Chelsea are now attempting to deliver.