Premier League • England

Chelsea playing dangerous game with Raphinha, as Ziyech says yes to AC Milan on unfavourable terms

Chelsea attacker Hakim Ziyech

Chelsea risk leaving themselves short if Barcelona hijack their Raphinha deal after Hakim Ziyech reportedly gave the green light to joining AC Milan.

The Blues’ forward line on opening day could look unrecognisable to the one Thomas Tuchel finished last season with. Romelu Lukaku has returned to Inter Milan on loan. Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic have both been talked about as potential makeweights in a deal with Juventus for Matthijs de Ligt.

On the arrivals front, talks are underway with Raheem Sterling and Chelsea have struck an agreement with Leeds to sign Raphinha.

A transfer fee of an initial £60m, potentially rising to £65m, has been agreed. However, Raphinha seemingly has his heart set on joining Barcelona instead.

Barca are intent on cobbling together a deal in whatever manner they can. Prior reports spoke of a deal comprising four instalments, while today’s Transfer Gossip detailed their attempts to shift Memphis Depay to free up cash and room.

For as long as an agreement over personal terms remains out of reach, Chelsea cannot rest in the knowledge they’ll land the right-sided winger.

So it comes as something of a risk to see widespread reports claiming Hakim Ziyech is on course to join AC Milan.

Likely deal structure surfaces

The Moroccan is one of just two left-footed attackers Thomas Tuchel has left. Kai Havertz remains on the books, though he primarily plays centrally with Ziyech usually on the right wing.

Clearly, Raphinha is viewed as the perfect upgrade on Ziyech, though selling him before Raphinha is signed would leave Chelsea short of specialist options on the right.

That is a scenario that looks like it will unfold, however. Sky Sports report AC Milan are confident they’ll finalise a deal.

Italian outlet Calciomercato take it a step further, reporting Ziyech has ‘said yes to Milan.’ However, the terms on offer aren’t as favourable to Chelsea as first thought.

Hakim Ziyech, Chelsea winger, during Champions League quarter-final clash v Real Madrid

Reports from Spain claimed the Blues could be in line to recoup around £30m in a permanent sale.

However, the latest from both CalcioMercato and Corrriere dello Sport state it’ll be a one-year loan with an obligation to buy. The obligation will reportedly be set around the €25million (£21.5m) mark, though Chelsea will push for £4m higher.

Regardless, that structure of deal means Chelsea won’t have funds from a Ziyech sale made available for reinvestment this summer.

Ziyech never truly got going

If Ziyech does depart, Chelsea fans may be forgiven for thinking they never saw the Moroccan truly find his feet.

He arrived from Ajax for around £33m in 2020 with a reputation as an assist machine. Indeed, his record in the Eredivisie stood at an eye-watering 97 assists in 216 outings.

Hakim Ziyech loan to AC Milan almost complete says reports

Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech is reportedly close to joining AC Milan on loan for £5m

Yet the going was tougher in the Premier League and Ziyech’s place in the starting eleven under both Frank Lampard and Tuchel was never secure.

Ziyech’s tally in the Premier League currently stands at just six goals and six assists in 46 appearances.

His tale represents the classic case of the risks of buying a big fish from a smaller pond.