Chelsea have hatched a plan that involves paying over the odds to sign a star recently labelled the “best central defender in the world,” and TEAMtalk understands the Blues are confident of wrapping up a huge double coup by January.
The Blues were the biggest spenders in world football during the last summer window. Todd Boehly and co. showed no hesitation in the market, sanctioning big-money arrivals for the likes of Marc Cucurella, Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling.
However, the Blues endured a difficult start to the campaign and currently lay eighth in the Premier League.
Rather than rest on their laurels and admire their handywork, Chelsea’s new ownership are prepared to double down and continue splashing the cash.
A move for RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku is widely known to be in the works. The French forward, 25, has been a man on a mission over the last season-and-a-half, bagging 78 goal contributions in 81 matches at club level.
Nkunku has already undertaken a secret Chelsea medical in Frankfurt back in August. His deal holds a release clause worth €60m (approx. £53m), though sources including Fabrizio Romano have suggested Chelsea will pay over the odds to ensure they don’t miss out.
Now, speaking exclusively to TEAMtalk, transfer insider Graeme Bailey has told us that same approach will be used to help snare Josko Gvardiol.
Gvardiol has managers and pundits gushing
The Croatian – also of RB Leipzig – is fast becoming one of the world’s finest centre-halves. In fact, according to his national team boss, Zlatko Dalic, Gvardiol is already atop the mountain.
Following his imperious display against Belgium in the final group game, Dalic branded the 20-year-old “the best central defender in the world.
Dalic continued: “He is so mature. The way he plays, with the grace he controls the ball. It’s amazing.”
BBC pundit Jermaine Jenas added: “He’s been solid. He’s got it all.
“When he comes out with the ball, he has the ability to go past people, to drive into midfield. He hits good passes, defends properly.
“He’s been brilliant. 20 years old; different class.”
Chelsea to pay more, but in instalments
Like Nkunku, Gvardiol holds a release clause that can be activated next summer. Gvardiol’s clause has been reported by the Telegraph to be worth €50m (approx. £43m).
Per the Guardian, Chelsea bid well over the odds when offering £77.4m for Gvardiol last summer. The Blues wanted a deal done early, though Leipzig refused to sell and Gvardiol later signed a contract extension.
However, the speculation over a move to Chelsea has only heightened since the summer window slammed shut and per our transfer insider, Chelsea are again willing to pay more than is required.
“I’m told Chelsea have been tracking him since his Dinamo Zagreb days, and they have followed him closely since he arrived in Germany with RB Leipzig,” Bailey told TEAMtalk.
“They made their initial move earlier in the year, which pre-empted him signing his new deal, but that simply locked the value in for Leipzig.
“Chelsea are confident that they can get a deal done, and they want him and Christopher Nkunku sorted by January.
“Gvardiol has a release clause of nearly £44m, but it looks like it will be done without hitting the clause which will enable Chelsea to pay in instalments, so would actually likely be more in the end.
“Chelsea know that Gvardiol’s performances at the World Cup have been supreme so they need to get this done sooner rather than later.
“But the player knows the Chelsea interest has been there for a long time and has indicated a willingness to move to West London.”
Paying in instalments would allow Chelsea to spread the cost over multiple years, while also guaranteeing Leipzig a larger total fee than Gvardiol’s modest release clause.
It’s an unusual plan to pay more than the figure a release clause is set at, though may be a stroke of genius on Chelsea’s end if it ensures they’re the ones to land Gvardiol in 2023.