Chelsea

Chelsea

Premier League • England

Cesar Azpilicueta joined by fellow Chelsea star on Barcelona shortlist; Xavi has ‘always liked’ him

Saul Niguez Chelsea

Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta is not the only Blues player Barcelona want to sign, as they are reportedly interested in Saul Niguez too.

Saul, 27, surprised many when he left boyhood club Atletico Madrid to join Chelsea on loan in the summer transfer window. The agreement was initially just for one season, although Thomas Tuchel’s side have the option to make it permanent for €35million (£30m).

Saul was clearly hoping to break into the Chelsea midfield, though it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Tuchel prefers to play the likes of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. He can also rely on Ruben Loftus-Cheek coming off the bench.

As a result, Spain international Saul has not really made a huge impact at Stamford Bridge. He has made six Premier League appearances so far, amounting to a total of just 163 minutes.

The player is also yet to register a single goal contribution while in England.

Nevertheless, Chelsea are now considering the activation of Saul’s £30m buyout clause. They believe he can make significant improvements and become a more important player next term.

However, Barcelona are now aiming to disrupt that plan. According to Sport Witness, who cite Sport, the Spanish giants are ‘attentive’ to Saul’s situation.

Saul Niguez wanted at the Nou Camp

In addition to pursuing Azpilicueta this summer, they will also target his compatriot.

Barca head coach Xavi has ‘always liked’ Saul, stretching back to his days representing Atletico, according to the report.

As such, Barca are preparing to enter negotiations with Atleti for his signature once the transfer window reopens. This gives Chelsea a serious threat to complete the permanent deal and could see Saul’s price increase.

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The report adds Antoine Grizemann’s transfer into the mix. He left Barca in August to return to Atleti on loan, as part of the Blaugrana’s bid to cut their wages.

Diego Simeone’s team are yet to make a payment for the Frenchman, so Saul could be used as form of a ‘bargaining chip’ for that deal.


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Chelsea man defended by pundit

Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku has been defended by former striker Gabby Agbonlahor amid the Belgian’s struggles.

The media have jumped all over the Lukaku’s failings at the weekend. He managed just seven touches as Chelsea beat Crystal Palace 1-0 on Saturday – a new Premier League low.

Lukaku played for the full 90 minutes and his touches were the lowest in a Premier League appearance since at least 2003, when records began.

“I’m on Lukaku’s side,” Agbonlahor told Football Insider. “I get laughed at because I had nine touches in the first half against Spurs in 2015. Gary Neville and Frank Lampard were laughing about it at half-time.

“If you look between now and then there will be a lot of players who had fewer touches than me in a half.

“Sometimes it happens, when your teams have not got the ball you don’t get the touches because you’re the furthest one up the pitch.”

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