Premier League • England

Chelsea suffer transfer blow as Benitez leans towards Serie A swap for Tuchel target

Rafa Benitez Everton

Everton could send Chelsea left-back target Lucas Digne to Inter instead and get Matias Vecino as part of the deal, according to a report.

Digne has proved a solid signing for the Toffees since his 2018 move from Barcelona. However, his future has become uncertain in recent weeks, supposedly because of a disagreement with manager Rafael Benitez in training.

Benitez therefore dropped the full-back from the squad for a 2-1 win over Arsenal in December. Injury has also affected the France international and he has not featured in any of Everton’s last four matches.

While he returned to the bench for Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Brighton, Benitez picked right-footed Coleman on the left.

What’s more, new full-back signing Vitaly Mykolenko announced himself to the Goodison Park faithful on Sunday.

As such, talk has emerged of Digne leaving Everton in January. Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are initial frontrunners, with Ben Chilwell out for the rest of the season following knee surgery.

According to Sport Mediaset, though, Everton could yet avoid strengthening a Premier League rival. Instead, a deal with Inter is potentially on the cards.

The Serie A club’s versatile left-back and left midfielder Federico Dimarco, who can also play at centre-back, has signed a new contract until 2026.

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Behind him, though, former Manchester City man Aleksandar Kolarov is reportedly likely to depart. The 36-year-old has struggled this season, partly due to injury, and could seek a new challenge.

Inter’s favourite target for a left-sided player, who will also be back-up to Ivan Perisic, is Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic. However, if that deal fails to materialise, Digne is a top alternative.

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What’s more, Sport Mediaset claims that Inter could throw in Uruguayan midfielder Vecino as part of a deal with Everton.

Benitez is a fan of the 30-year-old, who has only played more than 45 minutes in a game twice this season.

Inter are looking for a straight loan deal for Digne. They could also ask for an option to buy the player.

Benitez speaks out on Digne

James Rodriguez, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurdsson discuss for Everton

Digne’s contract at Goodison Park runs out in 2025 after he signed an extension in Februry.

However, his future at the club looks uncertain. Asked why he did not pick Digne on the left against Brighton, Benitez hinted that the player’s attitude was at fault.

The manager said: “The most important thing for me is to have players on the pitch who want to be there, who want to fight for this club, for these fans and for their team-mates.

“This is the main thing. After that you have to choose the best one possible.”

Digne has played 127 games for Everton, chipping in with six goals and 20 assists.