Atlético Madrid have been working all summer (and perhaps even earlier) to offload Saúl Ñíguez and his high wages (previously reported to be in the £200k-300k range), and it looks like they may yet be successful in the final days of the transfer window.
Reports from several sources including the Guardian, Goal, ESPN, Sky Sports and Spanish newspaper AS claim Chelsea and Manchester United are set to duke it out for the 26-year-old midfielder, with Chelsea perhaps already submitting a loan bid with a buy-option to give ourselves another all-action box-to-box midfield option.
Saúl is set to leave Atléti.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 24, 2021
Chelsea opened talks for Saúl days ago. There’s official bid now on the table - loan with buy option. #CFC
Also Manchester United have asked for Saúl again in the last 24 hours, he’s in the list with Camavinga. #MUFC
He’s ready for PL move. pic.twitter.com/dAAFHzdiYq
Saúl has been with Atlético since age 14 and had been seen as one of Diego Simeone’s most important Cholistas, but his playing time decreased last season and he himself is apparently also ready for a new challenge. He had signed a massive nine-year (9!) contract in 2017 with an even more massive €150m release clause, which does put Atléti in a bid of a bind, but apparently they’re ready to let him go for much less than that.
Manchester United have long been admirers, but Chelsea are said to be willing to pay a “substantial” loan fee and also agree to a €40m buy-option (so similar to the Mateo Kovacic deal with Real a few years ago). Some earlier reports have claimed that Atléti would want this to be a obligatory clause to match their asking price from the start of the summer, but that doesn’t seem to be what we’re offering.
Chelsea have plenty of (midfield) deadwood that needs offloading still (Tiémoué Bakayoko, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater among them) but Saúl’s arrival would likely have the biggest impact on the first-team status of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu, likely making at least one of them surplus to requirements. There has been some chatter about an Ampadu loan already, while hopefully RLC’s future will become clearer in the next few days as well once he emerges from COVID protocol.
Let’s get silly in the last week of Silly Season!