Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has earmarked around €80m to put the final touches to Thomas Tuchel’s squad in January, according to a report.
Chelsea were already one of the pre-season favourites to lift the Premier League this season before making their moves in the window. Romelu Lukaku was re-signed for a club-record £97.5m to give the Blues a cutting edge up front.
His signing alone would’ve constituted a successful window, but the loan arrival of Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has already been hailed as a difference maker.
Nevertheless, one area of Tuchel’s squad that now appears light is at centre-back. The Blues chased Jules Kounde for much of the window, though ultimately failed to twist Sevilla’s arm.
The La Liga outfit’s strong bargaining position with Champions League football to offer and three years remaining on Kounde’s deal meant they were not tempted to sell on the cheap.
The Frenchman holds a release clause reported to be in the region of around £77m within his contract. Chelsea were unwilling to trigger it, despite selling Kurt Zouma to West Ham in the window’s final week.
But according to Caught Offside (citing Spanish outlet Don Balon) Abramovich has his sights set on acquiring Kounde at the first available opportunity.
They claim the Russian owner is ‘willing to bankroll an €80m’ move for Kounde in the winter window.
Chelsea Transfer Window Review
Our take on Chelsea's activity in this season's Summer transfer window.
It’s stated Abramovich has already ‘set aside’ the funds to bring Sevilla to the negotiating table.
Don Balon are known for being on the lighter side of journalistic integrity and their report should be taken with a pinch of salt as a result. However, in theory, going back in for Kounde would make sense.
Trevor Chalobah could fill the void left by Zouma, though the 22-year-old lacks experience at the highest level. Furthermore, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are all in the final years of their contracts.
Additionally, Kounde was reported to be ‘furious’ after Sevilla refused to relax their demands during Chelsea’s pursuit.
Chelsea flop booted from international camp
Meanwhile, Morocco head coach Vahid Halilhodzic has axed Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech from the national team due to his “unacceptable behaviour”.
The North African nation earned a 2-0 win at home against Sudan in their first World Cup qualifier on Thursday. Ziyech though was not involved and he will not face Guinea on Monday either.
Morocco will be left to manage without their star man after Halilhodzic said the 28-year-old “refused to work”. Halilhodzic accused the Chelsea man of lying about an injury before a set of friendly fixtures in June.
“His behaviour in the last two matches, especially the last one, was not that of a national team player who as a leader in the team has to be a positive role model. He arrived late and after that, he even refused to work,” Halilhodzic told a press conference.
“For the first time in my coaching career, I have seen behaviour that disappoints me. A player who refuses to play a game, admittedly a friendly, on the pretext that he is injured.
“The medical staff made several examinations and said he could play. He then refused to warm up in the second half because he was disappointed to be a substitute. For me, that type of behaviour is unacceptable.”