Chelsea completed a last-minute transfer deadline-day deal for Denis Zakaria from Juventus on Thursday night.
The Blues have loaned the 25-year-old for the season and hold an option to buy the midfielder at the end of the season. Chelsea only confirmed the deal on their website in the early hours of Friday after Zakaria passed a medical on Thursday night.
Chelsea had been seeking senior midfield reinforcements following the additions of two exciting young talents. Cesare Casadei and Carney Chukwuemeka look like signings for the future. But the £10m departure of Billy Gilmour to Brighton had left Thomas Tuchel short.
Chelsea had been chasing Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez. And the Blues are understood to have lodged a £43m bid, but Ajax blocked the move for the 24-year-old. After selling off some significant assets, including Lisandro Martinez and Antony, and banking £181m in the process, Ajax officials said no to a deal for Alvarez.
Chelsea, who also tried to land Frenkie de Jong, also failed with a late attempt to sign PSV midfielder Ibrahim Sangare.
According to Eindhovens Dagblad, Chelsea made an approach to PSV this week over the availability of the Ivory Coast midfielder. The Blues were willing to pay up to £38.9m for the midfielder.
PSV though turned down the proposal with Sangare staying with the Eredivisie club. Had Chelsea moved earlier in the summer they could have signed Sangare for £31.9m due to a release clause in his contract.
That left Todd Boehly and Co scrambling around for a late deal and Zakaria was the man.
The Swiss international only joined Juventus from Borussia Monchengladbach in January. He has made 11 appearances for the Serie A club.
A Chelsea statement read: “Swiss international Denis Zakaria has joined Chelsea on loan from Juventus for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign, with an option of a permanent transfer at the end of the season.
“The 25-year-old is a strong and energetic midfielder who is robust in the tackle. And a fine passer of the ball. Zakaria rose to prominence in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he was most often deployed in a defensive midfield role. He can also play further forward or in the centre of defence.”
Zakaria proud after last-minute move
On making the last-minute move, Zakaria said: “I want to say hi to all the Chelsea fans. I’m very happy and proud to be a Blue and I cannot wait to see you soon at Stamford Bridge.”
The holding midfielder, who is expected to “chip in with goals”, made two appearances in four Italian top-flight matches so far this season.
Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly said: “Denis is a talented midfielder with lots of quality and skill. He will add depth and range to our squad this season. And we are looking forward to watching him play in Chelsea blue.”
Two of Chelsea’s co-controlling owners also had their say, Behdad Eghbali and José E. Feliciano, added: “Denis brings top-level and international experience. And his mix of tenacity and great distribution will be assets to our team. We’re happy to have him with us and welcome him to London.”
Whether Zakaria can oust the likes of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in the deep-lying midfield role remains to be seen. But with Kante’s injury record he may well get plenty of opportunities to cement his place in Tuchel’s line-up.