Inside the Transfer Window: What's Going on at Chelsea?

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJuly 20, 2018

Inside the Transfer Window: What's Going on at Chelsea?

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    Chelsea are in the midst of a chaotic summer that does not seem ideal preparation for a Premier League title challenge.

    Their dismissal of Antonio Conte was so dragged out that the former boss is now taking legal action against the club, claiming Chelsea have cost him one year of his managerial career, per Matt Hughes of The Times.

    Star player Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois are being pursued by Champions League holders Real Madrid.

    And new boss Maurizio Sarri, appointed last week, has just three weeks to shape his squad before the transfer window closes and the new campaign begins.

    It's a complex and frustrating time for Chelsea, but there is some good news for Sarri—he will have more say over transfers than Conte ever did.

    Here is an in-depth look at how the Stamford Bridge transfer situation looks right now.

The Battle to Keep Eden Hazard

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    Hazard is 27 years old, has just been voted the World Cup's second-best player and is waiting on Real Madrid to make their move.

    Some Chelsea staff have always hoped he was not ambitious enough to pursue a move to one of the La Liga giants, meaning he would see out his career with at Stamford Bridge.

    But people close to the player in Belgium have told Bleacher Report that is not the case. They say he completely realises this could be his only chance of making a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu—and it's one he dreams of.

    It is fair to say he would not see himself as an exact replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo. He is too self-effacing for that.

    But his representatives have been sounded out by intermediaries on behalf of Madrid about whether he would be keen on the switch, and the feeling is he would relish the chance to test himself with the European champions.

    Madrid officials have not yet made contact with Chelsea about an offer, but there are reports he has a £200 million price tag to deter them.

    Insiders at Chelsea are also adamant the club will not let him go without a fight.

    On top of their stance of him not being available, they are willing to hand Hazard a new contract worth £300,000 per week.

    One another key aspect of this situation they believe could work in their favour, too, is his good-natured personality. They hope it will mean he won't try to force a transfer.

    But these will be nervy days for the Chelsea board as the player ponders his future on a summer vacation, with Sarri waiting to speak to him in person rather than interrupt his break.

    If Madrid do make an official offer, those sources close to Hazard told B/R they feel he will make it clear he wants to move. And that will leave Chelsea with little time, if any, to replace him.

Planning for Life Without Thibaut Courtois

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    Chelsea see Hazard as irreplaceable but that is not the case with goalkeeper Courtois, who is also wanted by Real Madrid.

    This move is further advanced than one for Chelsea's No. 10 and is helped by the fact the former Atletico Madrid player is keen to move back to the Spanish capital for family reasons.

    He is in the final year of his Chelsea contract, and a fee of around £35 million has been discussed.

    While he has shown his worth as the World Cup's Golden Glove winner, Chelsea insiders give the impression they are not too concerned about losing him. He would not be missed as Hazard would.

    Rumours of a move to bring back Petr Cech from Arsenal should not be ignored—director Marina Granovskaia is a big fan and would be key in negotiating for him to return. It could be he is a stop gap or back-up, though, rather than the club's new No. 1.

    Links to Barcelona's Jasper Cillessen , AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma and Leicester City's £50 million-rated Kasper Schmeichel are now being made, while B/R sources suggest Stoke City's Jack Butland could also yet emerge as an attainable option.

    Schmeichel is the one who has been explored most thoroughly at this stage, and the player is keen to test himself at a bigger club. However, Chelsea want to knock down Leicester's valuation.

Searching for a New Striker

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    Gonzalo Higuain is being spoken of as a potential recruitment in attack for Chelsea, but if that plan falls down, there is a possibility they will join Manchester United in checking out Robert Lewandowski's loyalty to Bayern Munich.

    B/R sources indicated Chelsea could turn to the German club with an inquiry, as there are murmurings through third-party sources that he may still be open to a Premier League switch. 

    It is expected Sarri will have a bigger say in signings than Conte did. Landing one of these two players will prove crucial to the new manager's plans.

    The current front options of Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi are not going to lead them to the title as far as Chelsea seem concerned. So getting rid of at least one of that trio is also on the cards.

The Big Picture

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    Sarri does have a say when it comes to signings, and the arrival of Jorginho from Napoli was evidence the club have faith in his vision.

    It is well-documented Sarri now has Italy defender Daniele Rugani on his wanted list and Chelsea have been making a play for the Juventus player already in this window. Negotiations have been going slowly, but they are showing signs of progress.

    A report in the Evening Standard noted a five-year contract worth £77,000 per week has been agreed and the Blues will pay over £44 million to complete the deal.

    Midfielder Aleksandr Golovin is also likely to join from CSKA Moscow.

    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a huge admirer of the Russia international, and his creativity will be key in a midfield that will certainly have more spark about it next term.

    But with Jorginho and Golovin on board, other members of the squad face being frozen out.

    Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley are unsure where they stand and Tiemoue Bakayoko is in talks with AS Monaco over a loan switch.

    Ruben Loftus-Cheek also needs game time, so he will move on if that is looking unlikely. And in defence there are some outgoing deals that need to be negotiated, as Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Kurt Zouma and Matt Miazga all consider their situation.

    The early transfer window deadline of August 9 is not helpful to Chelsea, who have a disordered squad in need of renovation.

    Their first match under Sarri takes place on Monday against Perth Glory, and afterwards we should discover just how ruthless and bold the new manager is able to be.


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