Chelsea poised for first major post-Abramovich signing


The west London giants are said to be closing in on Brazil and Leeds United star Raphinha

Chelsea are in line to make their first major signing of the post-Roman Abramovich era after reportedly agreeing a fee exceeding £55 million ($67 million) for Leeds United winger Raphinha.

As the leader of the consortium that bought Chelsea for £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) in late May – after Abramovich put the club up for sale shortly before being sanctioned by the UK and having his assets frozen for alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin – transfers are being overseen by new US owner Todd Boehly. 

This is also due to the departure of close Abramovich ally and former director Marina Granovskaia in recent days, with Boehly and his group reportedly making £200 million ($243 million) available for purchases that will help Chelsea compete for top honors again at home and in Europe.

The first of these could be Raphinha. The Brazil international represented by Barcelona legend Deco was said to be waiting for the cash-strapped Catalans to approach him, but as Barca stall, Chelsea have entered the race and are in pole position to land 25-year-old, according to The Athletic.

Chelsea have been linked to Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele too, with manager Thomas Tuchel keen to reunite with the forward he knows well from their days at Dortmund together.

Reports have said that the German has even met with the ‘Mosquito’ to explain what his role would be in the team at Stamford Bridge.

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And though Dembele is said to have already received a contract offer from the Blues, he is dragging his feet and mulling over whether he should stay at the Camp Nou after all.

Dembele’s camp are said to have doubts about why Chelsea are pursuing both the Frenchman and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who plays in the same position but can also act as a striker.

Euro 2020 finalist Sterling is another of Tuchel’s top targets, and The Guardian says that Chelsea are preparing a bid for the 27-year-old, who transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano claims is “keen” to head home to London.

Selling Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal in recent days, City are apparently willing to let Sterling go as well, with the Jamaica-born goalscorer having just a year left to run on his contract. 

Tuchel has reportedly assured Sterling he will be a starter after he fell out of favor at the Etihad under Pep Guardiola, who has seen Erling Haaland arrive and bolster his attack in recent weeks.

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With a bid between £50 million and £60 million ($61 million and $73 million), it is thought that the Mancunians will be ready to let their 2015 signing from Liverpool go.

Over on the left wing, Chelsea are also linked to Neymar, who Paris Saint-Germain are allegedly ready to wash their hands of.

Despite the 30-year-old signing a new contract at the Parc des Princes until 2027 last year, Neymar would cost far less than the €222 million ($233 million) world record fee the Qatari-backed outfit paid when triggering his Barca release clause five years ago. 

Brazil teammate Thiago Silva supports the potential coup, and said recently in Recife that Neymar “has to join Chelsea”.

“If it happens, it will be the best thing. Neymar needs no comment,” Silva added. 

“So far, I don’t know anything, but I hope it comes to fruition.”

With Antonio Rudiger leaving for Real Madrid, plus Andreas Christensen on his way out while possibly joined by Cesar Azpilacueta and Marcos Alonso, finding partners for Silva along the backline is also a priority. 

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To this end, names that Chelsea are said to be interested in include Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. 

Chelsea came close to signing Kounde last summer but are now believed to have “disappeared” in the hunt for the youngster while focusing on De Ligt instead. 

To make that potential deal happen, they are prepared to offer Christian Pulisic in a swap deal, according to the Daily Mail, which also confirms the Blues’ interest in Koulibaly. 

Even if Pulisic does not end up in Serie A, a figure definitely returning to the Italian top flight is Romelu Lukaku.

Bought by Chelsea in a record £97.5 million ($118.5 million) transfer last year, the Belgian striker landed in Milan on Wednesday morning and said he was “so happy” to be back in the fashion capital while brandishing a black and blue scarf.

After passing a medial, he is expected to rejoin old club Inter Milan for a loan fee of £6.9 million ($8.4 million) plus £3.5 million ($4.3 million) in bonuses if the Nerazzurri win back the Scudetto from cross-city rivals AC Milan.

Lukaku is taking a 30% pay cut to return to his old team, but Chelsea should be happy to get his £10 million ($12.2 million) a year salary off the wage bill.

With his transfer shortlist ever-growing then, Tuchel will be keen to land as many new acquisitions as possible before his men head to the US for their preseason tour, which kicks off on July 16 against Club America in Las Vegas. 

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