Chelsea’s plan for Reece James could backfire in a big way and give Man City the perfect opportunity to sign their long-term Kyle Walker replacement, per a report.
James, 22, has rapidly developed into one of the Premier League’s finest full-backs. James can operate at wing-back, right-back or on the right side of a back three. That versatility was key down the stretch last season with Thomas Tuchel deploying him as a centre-back in the latter stages.
James has been on the Blues’ books since the age of six. However, according to the Daily Mail, that fact may now be working against Chelsea.
That’s because the newspaper report Chelsea are reluctant to address his contract situation and feel his loyalty and emotional ties to the club will ensure he never pushes for a move away.
James’ current deal does not expire until 2025. As such, the club feel they have no need to open talks over a new contract.
However, James reportedly pockets £70,000-a-week at present – a figure far below senior players at the club. The report adds that salary is not reflective of his influence and importance to Thomas Tuchel’s team.
It’s claimed the previous ownership had no intention of opening extension talks this summer. Whether Todd Boehly and co will take a different approach isn’t stated, though the general feeling is there’s a reluctance on Chelsea’s part to act while James has three years remaining.
The contract impasse is of particular interest to Man City and Real Madrid, per the report.
Pep eyes James to succeed Walker
James has long been touted as a Los Blancos target. He would be viewed as the long-term successor to Dani Carvajal. It’s noted Real are monitoring James’ situation ‘very closely’.
Likewise, Man City view James in a similar way with the Chelsea ace earmarked to fill Kyle Walker’s boots. Walker remains a high level operator, though turned 32 in May.
While Chelsea’s inaction is not deemed a major issue at present, the situation could quickly change if James feels undervalued.
In the event James were sold, the Mail add Achraf Hakimi could be targeted to fill the void.
Can Chelsea afford to lose Reece James?
A club with Chelsea’s financial backing would always be able to sign a somewhat suitable replacement. However, James has already shown he is a world class operator and the Blues would be foolish to let him slip through their grasp.
His attacking contributions are essential for Tuchel’s system to thrive. Even in a post-Tuchel Chelsea if reverted to an orthodox right-back, James would still be an essential part of the machine.
His six goals and 10 assists across all competitions last season indicate his importance going forward. Yet his defensive prowess cannot be overlooked, with James far from the liability Trent Alexander-Arnold can sometimes be at Liverpool for example.
Furthermore, the prospect of losing such a magnificent player to a title rival in City is unpalatable in the extreme.
If push comes to shove and James begins to show discontent over his contract, the Blues must act and bring him in line with the top earners at the club. His contributions thus far indicate he has all the hallmarks of becoming a bona fide club legend if retained.