Mauricio Pochettino appears to have denied any involvement in Chelsea signing Lesley Ugochukwu after reiterating their need for experience in midfield – although he is said to have been impressed by one of the younger options newly at his disposal.
It emerged on Saturday that Chelsea have agreed a deal with Rennes to sign Ugochukwu. The teenager is due to join the Blues for a fee in the region of £23.5m in what can be considered an unexpected development.
Indeed, it even appears to have caught Pochettino by a degree of surprise. Speaking to the media after Chelsea won the Premier League Summer Series, the head coach claimed to have the same information about Ugochukwu as the journalists in attendance.
“We need experience in midfield,” said Pochettino.
“I have the information you have. My information is a player that is from France that maybe they sign with the idea to send on loan. The information was already in your laptop.”
As for where Ugochukwu could be playing next season, Fabrizio Romano has reported that the ‘only’ candidate to take him on loan would be Strasbourg, who recently came under Todd Boehly’s control.
The temporary move would allow Ugochukwu to build up his experience in Ligue 1 even more after he only started 14 top-flight matches last season.
As Pochettino has suggested, then, Chelsea will still be in the market for a more familiar option in midfield this summer. Recently, that department of their squad has been ripped apart.
In January, Jorginho was sold to Arsenal. Then, this summer, N’Golo Kante has left on a free transfer for Al Ittihad, while Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have been sold to Manchester City, Manchester United and AC Milan respectively.
Chelsea’s main remaining options include Enzo Fernandez, Conor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka, although the latter has also been earmarked for a loan exit.
Pochettino impressed by Andrey Santos
One youngster who could carve out a role for himself at Chelsea next season, though, is Andrey Santos. The Blues bought him from Vasco da Gama in January and left him on loan there for a while.
According to Romano, Pochettino has been impressed by the Brazilian in pre-season fixtures and training sessions. He could consequently be integrated into the first-team squad.
That said, there have been six enquiries to take him on loan. His suitors come from Portugal and Italy, while there has also been one Premier League approach.
Chelsea have not yet made their final decision, but there is every chance Santos could be involved with them in the months ahead.
It will not affect their plans to invest in another new midfielder, though. In that regard, options like Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia have been on their agenda.
However, it has been hard to buy the former from Brighton due to his price tag, while the latter is more firmly on Liverpool’s radar.