Premier League • England

Expert hints at Christoph Freund transfer priority as Chelsea appointment nears; two stars could leave

Christoph Freund and Matthias Jaissle

Transfer guru Fabrizio Romano has revealed which position Christoph Freund will likely prioritise for Chelsea, amid claims his appointment is on the verge of going through.

On Sunday, Romano revealed Chelsea are close to announcing Freund as their new sporting director. They have agreed personal terms with the 45-year-old, who currently works for Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg.

Freund is attracted by the opportunity and has told Salzburg chiefs of his desire to move on.

Romano claims majority Chelsea owner Todd Boehly first spoke with Freund amid the Blues’ negotiations for Benjamin Sesko.

Chelsea couldn’t get the move over the line as Sesko instead decided to join Salzburg’s sister club, RB Leipzig, in 2023.

However, the negotiations with Freund left a good impression on Boehly and he has now opted to bring the Austrian to Stamford Bridge.

Upon his arrival, Freund will help new manager Graham Potter with his transfer strategy and other important factors, such as the youth setup.

Freund and Potter will guide Chelsea into a new era following the change of ownership earlier this year, and Thomas Tuchel’s sacking on September 8.

Romano suggests Christoph Freund priority

In his latest CaughtOffside column, Romano has been discussing Freund’s potential transfer targets and the futures of two current stars.

Midfielders Jorginho and N’Golo Kante both have contracts which expire in 2023. The pair are important to Chelsea and as such are likely to be offered new deals.

However, Jorginho and Kante know they will have plenty of suitors if they opt to find a new club. And Romano thinks one or both of them may leave, forcing Freund to capture a midfield replacement.

“In my personal opinion, they need some energy and freshness in the midfield,” Romano wrote.

“It’s important to understand what’s gonna happen with Kante and Jorginho’s contracts; I think they will focus on a new midfielder in 2023.

“Now it will take some time to understand Freund and Potter’s priorities.”

Zakaria to be followed by second new midfielder

Chelsea strengthened the midfield during the summer by bringing in Denis Zakaria on loan from Juventus. They can make it permanent at the end of the season, should Zakaria do well.

Potter can also use Conor Gallagher following his return from loan, as well as exciting young midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka. But Chelsea could still spend big on a new star as Boehly hunts huge success.

It will be interesting to see which midfielder Chelsea potentially end up pursuing. They made a bid for Ajax and Mexico enforcer Edson Alvarez this summer, but the Dutch club wouldn’t let him go.

They had already lost several important players, including Antony and Lisandro Martinez to Manchester United, as well as Ryan Gravenberch to Bayern Munich. Chelsea could go back in for Alvarez if Freund green lights such a pursuit.

Chelsea have been linked with a £100million move for Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, too. This could see the west London outfit beat Liverpool to his signing.

Alternatively, the Blues might swoop for long-term target Declan Rice. West Ham have always been adamant about keeping him. But this could change if they fail to qualify for Europe this season.

The Irons currently sit in 18th place after losing five of their first seven league matches.

Meanwhile, Tammy Abraham says the striker role at Chelsea can be a “lonely” place after he and Romelu Lukaku left to find their top form.