Premier League • England

Chelsea identify perfect plan B if record-busting deal for Man Utd, Liverpool target is hijacked

Ecuador centre-back Piero Hincapie

Chelsea have identified a suitable alternative who played every minute for his country at the World Cup if they’re unable to complete a record-breaking deal for a superstar Man Utd and Liverpool also want, per reports.

If Josko Gvardiol wasn’t a man in demand prior to the World Cup, he certainly is now. The 20-year-old centre-half was a one-man rock at the heart of Croatia’s defence. Along with the evergreen Luka Modric and goalkeeper Dominik Livaković, the trio were largely responsible for guiding Croatia all the way to the semi-finals.

Gvardiol plies his trade for RB Leipzig at club level and per Sky Germany, is understood to have seen the release clause in his contract removed in September.

Gvardiol penned fresh terms with Leipzig and the Bundesliga outfit rid themselves of the clause reported to be worth around £44m. The clause could reportedly have been activated in the summer of 2023.

The figure fell well below the player’s true market value given Chelsea saw a bid of £77.4m turned back last summer, per the Guardian. If a bid of that size had been accepted, Gvardiol would’ve become the second most expensive defender of all time behind only Harry Maguire (£80m).

However, given his exploits in Qatar, common sense would dictate Leipzig can safely command a world record fee for a defender for Gvardiol moving forward. He’s only 20 years old and Leipzig’s hand is strengthened by the fact his contract has five years remaining.

Gianluca Di Marzio predicted Chelsea will bid for Gvardiol in January.

However, Liverpool and Man Utd have both drawn links of late, as have Man City. In fact, transfer reporter Rudy Galetti recently claimed Jurgen Klopp’s side have shown the “greatest interest” thus far.

Todd Boehly and co are unlikely to shy away from a Gvardiol transfer easily. However, if they do wind up missing out on Gvardiol’s signature, Sky Sports have detailed their back-up plan.

They report Bayer Leverkusen’s Piero Hincapie, 20, is their plan B.

Chelsea mission clear: left-footer is required

The Ecuadorian played every minute for his country in Qatar and despite his young age, already has 100 first-team appearances for club and country combined.

Like Gvardiol, Hincapie is a left-footer, with Chelsea still searching for their ideal replacement to Antonio Rudiger.

The German is right-footed, though was a revelation on the left side of Chelsea’s defence in either a back two or three. Both of the Blues’ summer recruits at centre-back – Wesley Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly – are right-footed.

Sky state ‘Chelsea are interested’ in Hincapie if Gvardiol eludes them. While he’ll not cost anywhere near the same sum the Croatian will, his contract status will ensure Leverkusen can hold out for as much as they can get.

Hincapie’s contract with the German side doesn’t expire until 2026.

READ MORE: Journalist drops hint that Liverpool are ‘waiting’ on Chelsea star to decide his future before pursuing deal