Chelsea look set to lose Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of next season with Barcelona said to be closing in on the 32-year-old’s signature. He will be able to sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club from January after failing to agree a new deal at Chelsea despite holding talks with the Blues in recent weeks.
Azpilicueta has featured on a regular basis for the European champions this season, providing cover at centre-back and on the right-hand side of Thomas Tuchel’s back five when required.
However, it seems as though Chelsea will be forced to wave goodbye to their skipper at the end of the season, with Barcelona moving quickly in their attempts to bring him to the Nou Camp.
The La Liga heavyweights have already reached an agreement in principle to seal Azpilicueta’s signature on a free transfer, according to transfer expert Gerard Romero.
Chelsea will likely be looking to replace the Spaniard in the event of his departure ahead of next season, meaning that another dip into the transfer market could soon be on the cards.
With that in mind, Express Sport takes a look at three potential defensive targets for the Blues to chase in January or when next summer rolls around.
Chelsea have been credited with a desire to land Kounde since the end of last season and made a concerted effort to secure his services over the summer.
However, they were unable to agree a fee at club level with Sevilla, who refused to sell for anything less than the Frenchman’s release clause of around £68million.
He reportedly agreed personal terms with Chelsea before it became apparent that a move would not be pushed through.
Kounde is able to excel as part of a back three or at right-back when required, suggesting that he would represent a shrewd option to replace Azpilicueta at Stamford Bridge.
Szalai is another name to have been linked with the Blues in recent weeks after establishing himself as a key man for Fenerbahce.
The 23-year-old has, like Kounde, turned plenty of heads with his stunning performances in the Turkish club’s back three.
He is also likely to command a lower fee than the Sevilla man in the event of a January exit after joining Fenerbahce from Apollon Limassol for just £1.8m earlier this year.
However, Szalai lacks experience at the highest level and could be overlooked by Chelsea when next month’s window opens as a result of his current standing.
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Chelsea may also be tempted to consider a move for Lacroix, who has emerged as one of Europe’s hottest prospects in recent years.
The 21-year-old is a key man at the back for Wolfsburg and was linked with the Blues during the summer, with Tuchel said to be a keen admirer of his talents.
Lacroix has also been mentioned in connection with Borussia Dortmund as of late, suggesting that a bidding war could soon take place to secure his long-term future.
However, Wolfsburg are unlikely to be keen on selling their prized asset in the middle of the season as they go in search of Bundesliga survival between now and the end of the campaign.