French sports daily L’Équipe is reporting that Chelsea have opened talks with Lyon midfielder Nabil Fekir over a transfer, possibly for this summer.
The report is hidden behind a paywall, but the sub-headline pretty much tells the whole story: Chelsea have given super-agent Pini Zahavi a mandate to establish contact with representatives of the Lyon captain. L’Equipe’s report from the start of the weekend has since been picked up by all the usual outlets in both England and the continent. Here’s the Mirror’s version, for example.
In favor of this story bearing some substance is that Fekir is in Eden Hazard’s position. He’s his club’s best player and his contract expires after next season. Like Hazard, he hasn’t signed an extension and it’s getting to be time to fish or cut bait for Lyon.
Chelsea flirted with the idea of moving for him last summer before opting out — though not as spectacularly as Liverpool, who had a transfer all but wrapped up before pulling the plug due to concerns about the player’s medical history — and L’Équipe later reported that the Blues were among the clubs still tracking him.
Fekir had a stellar 2017-18 with 18 goals and 8 assists in 30 appearances. Buying him could theoretically give Chelsea the midfield goals we’re missing. However, there are reasons to wonder if there’s really anything here beyond typical rumormongering.
First, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said at the end of August that Chelsea showed “no interest all all” in him.
Second, the chronic knee injury that reportedly scared Liverpool away in the summer may still be an issue. Fekir made it through the World Cup but the knee, which underwent anterior cruciate ligament surgery in 2015, had more surgery at the end of the 2016 season.
Fekir had logged heavy minutes in previous seasons despite the knee, but when he’s sidelined, which has happened in almost one-third of Lyon’s Ligue 1 matches this season, a knee issue is always the reason.
He still has six goals and four assists in 16 appearances so far this season. But those missed games loom large for a 25-year-old for whom Lyon are doubtless expecting a princely sum, possibly starting somewhere around £50m.