Premier League • England

Barcelona plot new angle of attack after Azpilicueta extends Chelsea stay; ‘secret’ Rudiger talks surface

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta

Cesar Azpilicueta could still join Barcelona this summer despite seeing his contract automatically extended by 12 months, while secret talks with fellow defender Antonio Rudiger have emerged, per multiple reports.

All three of Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Andreas Christensen were due to become free agents on June 30. The trio have all excelled at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel and have all become targets for Barcelona ahead of a busy summer window at the Camp Nou.

Chelsea’s current off-field turmoil has seen restrictions put in place that prevents them from signing their stars to new deals.

However, per the Athletic, Azpilicueta has bypassed the sanctions and seen his contract extended by 12 months.

That is because a clause in the Spaniard’s contract stipulated an extension would be triggered if he reached a certain number of appearances this term.

Per the report, Azpilicueta has reached the target. And given the clause’s nature, it has not been classified as a new contract. As such, he is now on Chelsea’s books until 2023.

talkSPORT take the view that Barcelona’s pursuit is now ‘over’. With a free agent swoop off the table, the outlet reckons their interest will end.

However, the Guardian aren’t so sure that is the case. Instead, they report Barcelona could still sign Azpilicueta this summer through a normal transfer – rather than free agent pick-up.

Given Cesar Azpilicueta is 32, only a ‘small fee’ will be required to twist Chelsea’s arm. The Blues are currently unable to buy or sell players, though that will change once their takeover is completed.

What’s more, Azpilicueta is deemed ‘interested’ in returning to Spain. Given his decade of faultless service, Chelsea may not stand in his way and accept a low offer if his heart is set on returning home.

Rudiger agent meets with Barcelona chiefs

And if Azpilicueta does depart to Barcelona, Sky Germany report he could quickly be followed by Antonio Rudiger.

Rudiger too is an impending free agent and has drawn links with a whole host of Europe’s elite.

However, per Sky Germany, ‘secret’ talks took place on Wednesday night between Barcelona big wigs Mateu Alemany, Johan Cruyff and Rudiger’s agent, Sahr Senesie.

The trio reportedly convened at the 5-star ‘Barcelona EDITION’ hotel. The meeting is reported to have lasted almost three hours.

Barcelona are deemed to be trying ‘everything’ they can to bring Rudiger on board. If signed, he could make it a trifecta for Barca who are also the frontrunners to sign Christensen.