Now or never for Chelsea with Man Utd prepared to hijack January deal

Sevilla defenders Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde battling Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema in the air

Chelsea’s long-standing interest in Jules Kounde could come to nothing after a report declared Manchester United are eyeing a January steal.

The French centre-half, 23, drew persistent links with Chelsea over the summer. The Blues target has developed into a superb all-round defender at Sevilla. His reported £68.7m release clause gave Chelsea hope, but ultimately, they weren’t prepared to put their money where their mouth was.

Six months on and Kounde remains a top target for Chelsea. What’s more, the uncertainty surrounding their central defensive options has heightened the need for new additions.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger are all out of contract next summer.

While it’s expected some will remain at Stamford Bridge, the likelihood is that at least one will leave. At present, Rudiger is the likeliest candidate to pack his bags with Real Madrid circling.

A recent report from ESPN stated Kounde’s price tag has dropped from the initial £68.7m Sevilla cravedThey added that while a summer deal still looks most likely, a January switch cannot be ruled out.

Man Utd showing ‘palpable’ Kounde interest

However, according to Sport Witness (citing Spanish outlet AS), Man Utd could wind up being the club to benefit from the price drop.

United are stated to be showing ‘palpable interest’ in a deal and could ‘scupper’ Chelsea’s belated plans.

Rudiger set for a big payday as free agent

The Chelsea man is out of contract at the end of this season, as is captain Azpilicueta.

Sevilla are deemed to be ‘not taking it for granted’ that Kounde will still be their player when the winter window concludes.

Key to their willingness to do business will be their ability to get a suitable replacement lined up first. If they do, Kounde could be Premier League-bound in January. Though whether he would land at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge remains a mystery for now.

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Man Utd rivalling Leeds for Rangnick, Bielsa successor

Meanwhile, Man Utd and Leeds are ready to do battle over the capture of a highly rated Portuguese manager, according to a report.

Ralf Rangnick will likely be in charge until the end of the campaign, when he will then begin a two-year consultancy role at Old Trafford. That gives United chiefs several months to find his successor.

One option is Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino. Reports suggest he has always wanted the job, despite his links with English rivals Tottenham. However, Man Utd have a backup plan, should they be unable to secure Pochettino’s services.

The Express claim United hold an interest in Sporting Lisbon manager Ruben Amorim. He is gaining plenty of admirers across the continent, despite being just 36 years old.

Amorim began coaching upon his retirement from playing in 2017. Since then, he has enjoyed a rapid rise to success. He joined Sporting in March 2020 as they paid Braga £8million for his signature.

During his first full season in charge, Sporting ended their 19-year wait for a Portuguese league title. They finished five points ahead of Porto, after keeping hold of top spot since November.

However, the Manchester club will not have it all their own way. Leeds are sounding out potential Marcelo Bielsa successors and also admire Amorim.

READ MORE: Paper Talk: Man Utd in advanced talks to sign dynamic midfield pivot