Barcelona will reportedly make a move for Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta after the Blues wrapped up the signing of Roma centre-back Antonio Rudiger.
According to Cadena Cope journalist Manolo Lama (h/t Tom Marshall-Bailey of Football.London), Barcelona believe Azpilicueta is the ideal man to step in at right-back—a position that has been troublesome for the Blaugrana since the departure of Dani Alves last summer.
Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports also relayed the reports:
Chelsea completed the signing of Germany international Rudiger on Sunday from the Serie A side, per the London club's official website.
While the ex-Roma man is a talented operator at the back and an exciting acquisition, losing Azpilicueta would represent a major blow for the Blues.
The Spain international has been supreme for Chelsea since arriving at the club from Marseille in 2012, operating as right-back, left-back and on the right side of a three-man defence. As these numbers from WhoScored.com show, he’s a natural defender:
Barcelona have struggled to replace the influence of the enigmatic Alves, with Sergi Roberto struggling in the role after a strong start and Aleix Vidal inconsistent before an injury layoff.
Azpilicueta boasts exceptional defensive instincts, and his energy and athleticism allow him to recover position quickly. At Barcelona, those traits would allow him to burst forward frequently into dangerous areas.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to see Chelsea selling one of their most important players for anything other than a stratospheric amount of money, even with Rudiger through the door.
Barcelona Make Final Paulinho Offer
It’s noted the Blaugrana have already had one offer of €20 million (£17.7 million) turned down, with the Chinese Super League outfit said to be holding out for €40 million (£35.4 million). However, it appears the La Liga side are ready to put their final cards on the table.
The report comes after Paulinho told Mundo Deportivo (h/t Football Espana) that he was hopeful a transfer to the Camp Nou would be sealed in the coming days.
As noted by Squawka News, Paulinho’s Brazil team-mate and Barcelona star Neymar insisted he’d be delighted to see the midfielder come in:
Football journalist Colin Millar doesn’t agree with Neymar’s assessment, though, suggesting the Blaugrana need to make smarter decisions in the window:
Paulinho became a figure of ridicule in the Premier League after struggling with Tottenham Hotspur, although to his credit he’s rediscovered some form in China.
Nevertheless, there are still major doubts about his suitability to European football, specifically La Liga and Barcelona. At the Camp Nou, midfielders have traditionally been inventive, incisive in their passing and quick on their feet.
Paulinho, while a strong runner and a physical presence, does not align well with the Blaugrana’s longstanding philosophies.