Premier League • England

Barcelona eye defensive force but see Chelsea march ahead in transfer race

Attila Szalai Fenerbahce

Spanish titans Barcelona are looking to sign a powerhouse defender but could lose out to Chelsea, according to reports.

The Blues’ solid backline has been a huge part of their success under Thomas Tuchel. The back three of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva have been very impressive, alongside goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Chelsea can also rely on young talent Trevor Chalobah and skipper Cesar Azpilicueta. Their wing-backs, meanwhile, have been enjoying life further up the pitch.

Ben Chilwell got on the scoresheet in three consecutive league games during October. Reece James bagged two great strikes in the recent 3-0 win over Newcastle.

Despite the brilliant defenders at his disposal, Tuchel is still looking for improvements and successors.

The Hard Tackle, citing reports in the Spanish press, write that 23-year-old Attila Szalai is their new target.

The centre-back has been in good form for Fenerbahce since joining the Turkish outfit in January. However, it was at this summer’s European Championship that he really made a name for himself.

Szalai put in some solid displays as Hungary held France and Germany to draws. Hungary didn’t manage to get out of Group F but picked up some admirers at the tournament.

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Szalai’s price tag has skyrocketed in recent months, while he has also been labelled ‘the Hungarian Virgil van Dijk’.

The Hard Tackle state that Barcelona are hoping to rival Chelsea for the player’s signature. But Tuchel’s side have stolen a march on their Champions League rivals and are aiming to complete a €20m (£16.8m) deal in January.

The Blues have previously looked at Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt and France international Jules Kounde. But their price tags are astronomical, so a shrewd capture of Szalai would make sense.

Barcelona, meanwhile, may have to scout alternative centre-backs. They are desperately searching for Gerard Pique’s successor as the Spaniard is now 34.

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Big update on Chelsea-linked striker

Meanwhile, German outlet Bild have a major update on Chelsea target Erling Haaland.

They claim that Borussia Dortmund are preparing a major new contract for the striker. It would make him the highest paid player in their history, while also getting rid of his £68m release clause.

However, it all hinges on sponsorship. Dortmund would only be able to finance the move if they can convince Haaland to change his main personal supplier from Nike to Puma.

Puma are Dortmund’s outfitters and could help them keep Haaland by taking him under their wing too.

In collaboration, their offer to Haaland could rise to somewhere between €16m and €18m per season for a salary. It would not meet the €30m benchmark he is seeking, but would be a record outlay for BVB.

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