Judging by the volume of transfer rumors so far this summer, it would appear that Chelsea are in the market for a centre-back — again.
This makes the fourth year in a row that the club have sailed the troubled seas of transfer market defenders, including the infamous Michael Hector/Papy Djilobodji summer of 2015-16, the David Luiz nail-biter the following year, and Antonio Rüdiger last time around.
As has been the case since Antonio Conte was appointed, the names getting the most play are all from Italy. At first it was a nightmare revisited, Kalidou Koulibaly, but for the last couple of weeks the rumor-mill has focused almost exclusively on Juventus’ Daniele Rugani with Roma’s Kostas Manolas as a secondary target — again.
(There was a brief, though hilarious diversion to Raul Albiol, too — the veteran peddled by Pedulla now seems set for Villarreal.)
While Chelsea appear to be steering well clear of the Koulibaly frustrations for once, whether the Rugani track will prove any easier is debatable. The 23-year-old, who’s about to turn 24 is under contract through 2021. He’s supposed to be the center back of the future for both Italy and Juventus. And the Old Lady are doing the Alex Sandro-dance already. SportItalia claim Chelsea have submitted at least two bids, upping our offer from €30m to €35m (plus bonuses). But Gazzetta dello Sport claim that it would take €40m to even pique Juve’s interest. Meanwhile, Sky Italia’s Fabrizio Romano seems to think no amount of money will do the trick, with Mehdi Benatia more likely to leave to make room for Ajax’s De Ligt at the Italian champions.
In short, it’s not looking good already for Chelsea, even if Sarri, Rugani’s old coach at Empoli, finally arrives this week.
The fallback option is apparently Kostas Manolas. He’s older, 27, and has a release clause of €35m. Roma are always more likely to sell than Juventus (see: Radja Nainggolan to Inter Milan) but they have apparently asked Chelsea to hold off until they can find a replacement.
Whether any of this is true or even a possibility is, as ever, unclear. With David Luiz and Gary Cahill not getting any younger, it does make some sense for Chelsea to look to refresh the center back group. But it seems that Chelsea need to sort the head coaching situation first before any of these rumblings become anywhere near serious.