Premier League • England

Chelsea hold talks with replacement as Tuchel loses grip on key defensive duo

Dan Burnham
Attila Szalai Hungary

Chelsea have held talks with a defensive target as Thomas Tuchel is slowly losing grip on a key pair of players, according to a report.

The Blues were in the market for a new centre-back in the summer. But missing out on Jules Kounde wasn’t an issue as they currently have enough options. However, there could be major changes at the end of the season.

Thiago Silva is likely to move on, which was expected, but Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen could also leave.

Contract discussions with both have been unsuccessful so far. And with time running out, the club’s chiefs have made a move on one potential replacement.

As per Football Insider, they opened discussions with the agents of Fenerbahce defender Attila Szalai in London last week.

Szalai, 23, has established himself as a regular starter for the Turkish club and his nation, Hungary, in the past 12 months.

He plays in a back three for both, meaning he would fit straight into Tuchel’s system at Stamford Bridge.

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His 3-4-3 set up is working wonders for the reigning European champions this season. They sit comfortably atop the Premier League table.

And the German manager isn’t willing to wait around and see what Rudiger and Christensen decide to do about their futures.

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Szalai’s contract runs until 2025. That means Chelsea have had to make an ‘astronomical’ offer to Fenerbahce, according to previous reports.

But it is money that they have to spend to reinforce their backline.

It should be well spent, too, with Szalai earning the nickname of ‘the Hungarian Virgil van Dijk’ for his stellar performances at Euro 2020.

Chelsea star has price tag applied

Meanwhile, Leeds and Newcastle are reportedly preparing to move in after learning what fee Chelsea will request for a midfielder.

While Tuchel is needing new faces at the back, his midfield remains quite stacked with talent.

Saul Niguez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley are all on the fringes. And Barkley being low down in the pecking order means he could soon leave.

A loan move has been touted, but Chelsea are now willing to let the Englishman leave permanently.

Transfer guru Ekrem Konur claims that a bid worth £14million will be enough to prize Barkley away from west London this winter. The Champions League holders want to recoup nearly all of the £15m they paid for him back in January 2018.

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