The rumors surrounding Chelsea’s upcoming summer transfer window have concerned themselves so far almost exclusively with possible new head coaches, but as unsettled as that position may (or may not) be, the Blues will undoubtedly conduct plenty of non-managerial business as well.
Near the top of the agenda — but probably below the futures of Conte, Hazard, Courtois, and Azpilicueta — should be the long-term replacement of aging key players as we continue to transition and refresh the squad. Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Willian, Pedro, and Cesc Fàbregas are all right around or already beyond that significant 30th birthday milestone. It’s regarding the latter’s potential replacement that Sunday’s rumor special from L’Equipe may speak to.
Alors qu'il quittera Lyon cet été, Nabil Fekir suscite les convoitises de plusieurs clubs anglais dont Liverpool et Chelsea https://t.co/i1tLhIP3Pm pic.twitter.com/Gl4f2MN2aP— L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) May 6, 2018
The French national newspaper claims that Nabil Fekir, the latest big star at Olympique Lyonnais is not long for France’s third city — “probably living his last weeks at OL” is how Google Translate puts it, though presumably this fatal condition is only football- rather than actual health-related.
The 24-year-old local boy come good took over OL’s captaincy last summer in the wake of Alexandre Lacazette’s departure and led the Kids (great nickname for a club) to at least a top four finish — they sit second with two games to play, but only two points separate them from fourth place Marseille, with Monaco sitting in-between. Fekir also set a new career high in goals (22) despite playing almost exclusively as an attacking midfielder, a fantastic return for a player often likened to Cesc Fàbregas.
Alongside fellow early-to-mid 20s future superstars Memphis Depay (formerly of Manchester United), Bertrand Traoré (hey there formerly of Chelsea), and Mariano Diaz (formerly of Real Madrid), Fekir formed a dynamic attacking group who quietly scored 82 goals in 36 games (with the quarter accounting for 62 of those 82). Though they disappointed with a Round of 16 exit in the Europa League, Lyon’s had a very good season under local hero Bruno Génésio’s management, but as usual, will face transfer market pressures to sell. Two summers ago they sold Umtiti; last summer they sold Lacazette and Tolisso; most expect Fekir to be next in that line of big money departures.
L’Equipe puts Chelsea at the top of the queue of teams waiting with open arms for the €60m-rated Fekir. Liverpool were there before, but OL have recently denied any contact with the Reds. Arsenal were in, the lack of Champions League hurts them — that doesn't bode well for Chelsea either, but hey, there's still hope! Atlético Madrid (if Griezmann leaves) and Manchester United are also in the picture, apparently.
That said, a few hours after the rumor came to light, Fekir gave a post-match interview (Lyon beat Troyes, 3-0 on Sunday; Traoré with a brace) with some of the usual lines one would expect in such a circumstance.
“There is nothing for the moment. I am still in Lyon. There are two games left. They are prepared in the best possible way. At the end of the season, we’ll see but for the moment there is nothing.”
-Nabil Fekir; source: L’Equipe via Google Translate
We shall see, indeed.