Chelsea have confirmed the arrival of Saul Niguez on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid, with the Blues able to sign the player permanently next summer for £34million.
The Blues announced Saul’s arrival 45 minutes after Tuesday’s 11pm deadline, making him their third summer signing after back-up goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli and striker Romelu Lukaku, who joined in a club-record deal.
Chelsea only had until midnight UK time to get a deal done but were able to confirm the move with 15 minutes to spare, much to the delight of the club’s fanbase.
Spain international Saul has spent his entire career at Atletico but spent one season on loan at Rayo Vallecano. He has made 340 appearances for the La Liga champions, scoring 43 goals, and has also racked up 19 caps for Spain.
The industrious 26-year-old had played in all three of Atleti’s matches this term but has been allowed to leave by Diego Simeone regardless.
Saul will provide a valuable extra option to Thomas Tuchel in midfield where the German coach only previously had a few options in N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Saul said in reaction to his move to the English capital: “I am very excited to start this new challenge with Chelsea.
“Blues fans, I am one of you now and I can’t wait to wear the shirt, start training and see all of you. See you soon!”
While influential Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia reflected: “We welcome Saul to the club and believe he completes our squad as we compete for honours in five different competitions this season.
“He is a proven winner, a player with huge experience and we know he will be very well-suited to the challenges that face us on all fronts in the coming year.”
Former Chelsea player Jason Cundy told talkSPORT of the deal before it was confirmed: “It’s a ridiculously good deal, especially £5m loan fee as well, it’s an option to buy, we need to cover in the middle of the park.
“N’Golo has had his injury problems, and you need to protect him. Chelsea now have four really brilliant options and that’s what Tuchel needs.
“They have a number of options around pitch, in the middle of the park. Mason [Mount] played there last season and that was forced upon him as opposed to a choice now he has real choice.”
While Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports: “I reckon what they’re thinking, Kante picked up an injury at the weekend, Kovacic, Jorginho they might be feeling a little light in there.
“This might be their year and it’s a big chance so they don’t want to leave themselves short and be short on numbers in that area.
“Of course they’ve got players who can play in midfield, Mason Mount in one of three. But if you can get Saul in the building, good player that would make a lot of sense to give yourself some cover in that area.”
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Though they signed Saul, Chelsea were unable to strengthen at centre-back with their bid to sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla proving unsuccessful.
Sevilla wanted the Frenchman’s £68m release clause paid in full and the Blues opted not to pay that amount despite selling Kurt Zouma to West Ham on a permanent basis at the weekend.
Chelsea meanwhile paid £97.5m to bring Lukaku back to the club in their biggest summer deal, and the Belgian has already got off the mark for the club.
He scored on his second debut away at Arsenal though could not get on the scoresheet in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with title rivals Liverpool.
Lukaku will hope to be among the goals once more after the international break when the European champions host Aston Villa on Saturday 11 September.