Premier League • England

Chelsea dealt triple blow with ‘progress’ made on two exits, Tuchel snubbed in third move

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel shotuing at his players during the Champions League final v Man City

Chelsea are facing a mounting crisis at centre-half after a report revealed they have suffered a triple blow in the department.

All three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger are due to become free agents in the summer. The trio have all played starring roles in Chelsea’s rise back to prominence under Thomas Tuchel. However, with under five months remaining on each of their contracts, it’s looking increasingly unlikely all three will stay.

Indeed, the latest on Rudiger suggested he and the club were poles apart over a contract extension.

Now, Spanish outlet Sport insist Barcelona have made a ‘lot of progress’ in their efforts to sign both Christensen and Azpilicueta.

Both players can be signed to pre-contract agreements, though Chelsea retain hope of tying the pair down to fresh contracts first.

Chelsea also have Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr on the first-team books. They would not be short of options if exits did occur, though Tuchel’s preferred back three system requires more depth at centre-half than most teams carry.

With uncertainty pervading their central defensive ranks, Chelsea have been linked with summer arrivals.

Indeed, Bayern Munich’s Niklas Sule is on their radar, while Sevilla’s Jules Kounde remains a top target.

Jules Kounde earmarked for starring Barcelona role

The Blues chased the Frenchman for much of the summer window. But with Sevilla under no pressure to sell, they insisted any suitors pay Kounde’s lofty release clause – something Chelsea were unwilling to do.

Nonetheless, Sky Sports Italia recently reported Chelsea were ahead of all their rivals on three different transfer pursuits. Kounde formed part of the proposed triple coup, though Sport now provide an alternative view.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde 2021

The Spanish outlet state Kounde is quickly becoming one of Barcelona boss Xavi’s top summer targets.

Xavi is seeking to revamp his defensive line entirely, and if given his way, Kounde will join Azpilicueta and Christensen at the Camp Nou.

Adding further fuel to the fire is the claim Kounde would ‘bet on the Blaugrana project’ if they’re able to finance a deal. In other words, Kounde would prefer to join Barcelona rather than Chelsea if given equal opportunity.

Tuchel asks Chelsea to push for Eder Militao from Real Madrid

Thomas Tuchel wants Eder Militao in the summer from Real Madrid

Xavi reportedly views Kounde as the answer to Barcelona’s defensive questions for the next decade. However, given their financial state, several exits must be sanctioned first.

Gerard Pique, Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti could all be axed if suitors can be found. If achieved, a pair of Chelsea stars and a long-time Blues target could be Barcelona-bound in the summer.

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Chelsea target’s next club already “decided”

Meanwhile, Chelsea target Niklas Sule has already chosen his next club, according to his representative – who has cast serious doubt on the chances of it being Newcastle United.

Niklas Sule is out of contract with Bayern Munich at the end of the season. The Bundesliga champions have already confirmed he has no intention of extending his stay. Therefore, he will be on the lookout for a new club after five seasons in Bavaria.

Champions League holders Chelsea have been linked with the Germany international. Replenishing their rearguard will be pivotal for Chelsea in the summer, therefore. Sule is someone who can help them in that task.

But they have either lost the battle already or won it without being able to say so just yet. According to agent Volker Struth, Sule has chosen his next club and is unlikely to change his mind.

Struth told Sport1: “The new club has already been decided. Niklas recently made a decision and I would be surprised if he changes it again.”

Asked to confirm the update, Struth replied: “Yes, that’s for sure.”

But the advisor was not able to name the club Sule should be joining. One thing he did confess, though, was that it is unlikely to be Newcastle.

He said: “I think I would have a problem if we were to announce in a few days that the player would move to Newcastle and I’m sitting here explaining that the money isn’t the priority.”

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