Premier League • England

Prime suitors Chelsea on alert as Raiola seeks to drive down exit clause of top target

Chelsea are working on a deal to sign Juventus centre-back Matthijs De Ligt, but their advantage in the transfer battle hinges on his asking price changing – according to reports.

Defence is an area that Chelsea are focusing on ahead of the upcoming transfer windows in 2022. Four of their current centre-back options are out of contract at the end of the season. Namely, there are doubts over the futures of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Rudiger has sent a reminder of his commitment, but seems the likeliest to leave. Christensen’s extension talks, meanwhile, have been stalling for a variety of reasons. Azpilicueta was recently linked with Barcelona, although a renewal is still an option. Finally, Silva is not a long-term solution anyway, despite his obvious talent.

Chelsea are at work to ensure at least some of them stay. But they will need to regenerate their backline, which has been the foundation of their success under Thomas Tuchel so far.

They will be aiming high in the transfer market as usual. While their summer target this year was Jules Kounde, their plans have been changing. Although the Sevilla centre-half is still on their radar, there have also been links with De Ligt.

The Netherlands international left Ajax, where he was captain, for Juventus in 2019. It was not a smooth transition at first, but he now has nearly 90 appearances to his name for the Old Lady.

Under contract in Turin until 2024, he is protected by a €120m release clause. Chelsea are interested, but that price would not be ideal.

According to Tuttosport, the Blues are leading the race to sign De Ligt as things stand. However, they are waiting to see if his agent Mino Raiola will help lower his Juventus exit clause.

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The Turin-based paper believes there is a chance of that occurring and Raiola is aiming for it. In the process, De Ligt’s contract would extend by one year until 2025.

Chelsea’s chances of signing him could be hampered, though, after it emerged that he is happy to stay with the Serie A side for now. He is continuing to learn his trade from veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

De Ligt is already the highest-paid player at Juventus, but they will not be able to give him a payrise within a new contract. Even so, they hope to find a compromise that will suit all parties.

Lowering the release clause could make his transfer more affordable for Chelsea. Ultimately, though, the decision would still lie with the player.

So far this season, De Ligt has played 12 times between Serie A and the Champions League. Still only 22, he has many years ahead of him and Juventus are hoping he will commit to them.

They are aware, though, that they risk losing him at some stage, which is why they are working to find a middleground.

The situation may have to wait, though. Raiola has said since: “Staying at Juventus or leaving? We should do this interview in May… it’s November now. It’s not time to talk about it.”

Chelsea risk Rudiger unrest

Meanwhile, reports have revealed that Chelsea are playing a dangerous game with their stance towards keeping Rudiger.

Antonio Rudiger in action for Chelsea

The German international has been central to their resurgence under his compatriot Thomas Tuchel. He has established himself as one of the Premier League’s most impressive defenders.

But with his contract up at the end of the year, there are fears about his future. A number of European giants are lurking in the background.

Chelsea, though, are still trying to persuade him to stay. To do so, though, they will need to change their approach when it comes to wages.

According to Bild, Rudiger wants an annual salary of around €12m from his next contract. So far, though, Chelsea have only gone up to €8.5m with their latest offer.

Rudiger is reportedly not happy that teammate Marcos Alonso earns €6m a year after tax. Alonso is only a rotation player, whereas Rudiger is a regular. Therefore, he wants that to be reflected in his salary.

The former Roma centre-back is still happy at Chelsea and in no hurry to quit. But if Chelsea do not change their stance, his outlook on a transfer may change.

Bayern Munich are believed to be particularly interested in taking him back to his homeland.

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