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Chelsea Transfer News: Blues Reportedly Keeping Tabs on Alessio Romagnoli

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2018

ROME, ROMA - FEBRUARY 28: Alessio Romagnoli of AC Milan scores a penalty during the TIM Cup match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Olimpico Stadium on February 28, 2018 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)
Marco Rosi/Getty Images

Chelsea have reportedly been scouting Alessio Romagnoli with a view to renewing their interest in the AC Milan defender after manager Antonio Conte was keen last summer.

Italian source Leggo (h/t TalkSport) reported how "Chelsea scouts have been watching the Italian closely again in recent weeks, with an eye on securing a permanent deal for the centre-half at the end of the season."

Conte, who is under pressure at Stamford Bridge amid the collapse of the Blues' defence of the Premier League title, was rumoured to be interested in the 23-year-old throughout 2016, per TalkSport.

Chelsea's defence has undergone an uncomfortable revamp during Conte's second campaign at the helm. John Terry was moved on, while David Luiz and Gary Cahill have fallen out of favour.

Chelsea's defence has been overhauled this season.
Chelsea's defence has been overhauled this season.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Cesar Azpilicueta remains a mainstay as one of the best defenders on the continent. Yet Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have both been finding their feet next to the resourceful Spaniard.

Romagnoli would give the Blues a natural ball-playing centre-back. It's a role Christensen has steadily been growing into, but comfort in possession is a requirement for every central defender in a back three such as the one Conte chooses to deploy.

Romagnoli is also quicker across the deck than both Rudiger and Cahill. While he's not as effective in the air as the latter, the Italy international is a natural at reading the game and anticipating danger.

Recently, those qualities have helped him form a useful partnership with former Juventus star Leonardo Bonucci. Like most of the Milan squad, the pair have been revived since Gennaro Gattuso succeeded Vincenzo Montella as manager.

Romagnoli is developing well alongside Bonucci.
Romagnoli is developing well alongside Bonucci.Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The Romagnoli-Bonucci double act has helped Milan keep clean sheets in consecutive wins over Sampdoria and AS Roma in Serie A. They also kept out Ludogorets Razgrad in both legs of the 4-0 aggregate win in the UEFA Europa League last 32.

Conte and Chelsea will likely have taken note of Romagnoli's progression alongside his more decorated and experienced team-mate. Signing the player won't be an easy task, though.

Milan plan to meet with the defender's agent, Sergio Berti, at the end of March and offer an improved annual wage of up to €3.5 million (£3.1 million), per Daniele Longo and Jean-Luca Mascaro of Calciomercato.com.

A lot would likely depend on where Chelsea finish this season, with doubts continuing to grow about Conte's future, according to ESPN FC's Mark Worrall. The Blues are fifth and five points shy of a place in the top four, meaning the club could miss out on UEFA Champions League football for the 2018/19 season.

Conte may be on borrowed time at Chelsea.
Conte may be on borrowed time at Chelsea.Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Milan may be in the same boat, unless Gattuso's suddenly buoyant squad wins the Europa League, a task that continues against a wounded Arsenal on Thursday.

Chelsea have the financial firepower to offer Romagnoli more, but the competitions the west London club is involved in next season will likely have as big a say in their chances of signing him.

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