Chelsea have been put on high alert after Axel Witsel revealed his desire to leave Zenit St. Petersburg this summer, but the Blues are at risk of losing youngster Domingos Quina to a Premier League rival. Plus, an approach has been made to sign Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels.
The Mirror's Adrian Kajumba provided quotes from Witsel, who acknowledged that because he's entering the final year of his contract in St. Petersburg, his club will have to let him leave for a lower fee:
I still have a contract for one more year come June and the club know how I feel. I would like to play in a bigger league. I cannot say that I will 100 per cent leave, but we have not held talks over a new deal and my intention is to leave this summer.
I want to focus on finishing the season on a high, then there’s the Euros and then we will see what happens. I spoke to a number of clubs last summer, but it was not about money for Zenit. They wanted to keep me because of the Champions League and there was no time to sign a replacement.
When a player has just one year left on his contract, a club cannot demand too much money. I don’t think Zenit will be asking €40m for me.
As far as come-and-get-me pleas go, Witsel's is fairly clear, and it's added that London rivals Tottenham Hotspur could provide competition in the hunt for his signature.
Zenit general director Maxim Mitrofanov spoke to Russian news agency Tass earlier this week and confirmed Stoke City also launched a bid to sign Witsel in January but failed (h/t Sam Long of the London Evening Standard):
There was an offer from the Stoke City. They offered about €15-16 million. No other proposals took place. [Our] colleagues probably think we may "fail" in summer. Witsel’s agents are dreaming of selling him somewhere but we will be happy if he continues playing in our team.
That gives some idea of how much the Russian giants would demand at the very least in order to sell, with Chelsea looking to reinvent their midfield after Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic slumped in form for a large chunk of this season.
WhoScored.com provided evidence to Witsel's standing as an elite anchoring figure in the Russian top flight, and Chelsea could perhaps have done with some more of that passing security in their engine room of late:
Axel Witsel: Only 1 player to make 10+ apps in the Russian PL in the last 2 seasons has better pass success than @axelwitsel28 (88.7%)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 23, 2016
While the chances of landing Witsel may have improved, Quina looks to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge amid interest from no fewer than five English peers, according to David Kent of MailOnline.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City are each said to have scouted the attacking midfielder in Croatia last week, where he helped Portugal under-17s top their UEFA elite-round group.
Of those outfits, Arsenal and Spurs may be better placed to land the 16-year-old after he settles in the capital, but the No. 10 may yet be tempted elsewhere if the right opportunity arises.
German newspaper Sport Bild reported the Blues have made contact with Dortmund for Hummels (h/t Metro's Tom Olver). Hummels' contract expires in June 2017, but German outlet DW Sports reported Dortmund are hoping to extend his deal and make him one of their highest-paid stars:
Hummels could become one of the highest-paid players at Dortmund w/ Gündogan, Mkhitaryan (contracts 'til 2017 too). pic.twitter.com/iHVgEQ0RO6— DW Sports (@dw_sports) March 23, 2016
Hummels won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 and has made 300 appearances for Dortmund, while Chelsea are hoping to find a replacement for veteran John Terry, whose contract expires this summer.
Chelsea's defence has been a major concern this season as the Premier League champions went from leaking 32 conceding goals in 38 games last term to conceding 41 in 30 outings this season.
Hummels has established himself as one of the Bundesliga's most domineering defensive presences, winning successive German league titles with the Black and Yellows in 2011 and 2012.
The Blues can hope the offer of a move to west London will be the temptation he needs to turn his attention away from Signal Iduna Park, but convincing the club to sell will still prove difficult.