Chelsea will reportedly make Kurt Zouma available for loan next season should they win the race to sign £50million-rated Southampton star Virgil van Dijk.
The Blues are confident they will win the race to sign the highly-rated Dutch defender, though Southampton’s reluctance to part with the former Celtic star is likely to see his asking price reach as much as £50million.
Van Dijk is seen as a long-term replacement for John Terry, who will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.
But with Andreas Christensen also returning to Stamford Bridge following a two-year loan spell with Borussia Monchengladbach, Chelsea need to make space in their squad – and the Daily Telegraph claims Zouma is likely to be the man to make way.
The Frenchman missed almost a year after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury last February and has made just 11 first-team appearances this season.
As such, the paper believes the club are willing to let him leave for a year, with Matt Law writing:
‘Rather than spend another campaign on the sidelines, Chelsea believe Zouma needs to play regularly next season – something he is unlikely to do at Stamford Bridge. The Blues would also ideally like 21-year-old Christensen to work under Conte and integrate himself into the first-team squad.
‘Southampton are among a clutch of clubs who admire Christensen and could yet request that he heads in the opposite direction as part of any deal for Van Dijk. Chelsea would prefer to send other youngsters to St Mary’s, although Southampton are not thought to be among the clubs interested in Zouma.’
Crucially, with the club returning to the Champions League next season, both Christensen and Nathan Ake qualify as home-grown players under the ‘association trained’ rule in Europe.
Law continues: ‘The biggest challenge for Chelsea will be to convince both Christensen and Ake that they will play enough first-team games to make it worth staying at Stamford Bridge.’
Christensen has stated in the past that he does not want to return to Chelsea to sit on the substitutes’ bench, while Ake is eager to play more after doing so well on loan at Bournemouth in the first half of this season.