Chelsea’s move for Jules Koundé is in danger of collapsing, with Barcelona refusing to end their pursuit of the Sevilla defender.
It had appeared that Chelsea were set to make Koundé their third summer signing. They were in advanced talks with Sevilla, who have been holding out for £55m, and financial restrictions had left Barcelona on the verge of pulling out of the race for the 23-year-old last Friday.
However Barça revived their interest in Koundé over the weekend and are increasingly optimistic they will win the race to sign the France international. The Catalan club, who have already beaten Chelsea to the signing of the Brazil winger Raphinha, have continued to tell Koundé to wait for them to submit their opening offer. It is believed they could end up paying a lower fee than Chelsea.
Barça’s persistence has raised fears that Chelsea, who have a five-year deal ready for Koundé, are set to encounter further frustration in their attempts to rebuild their defence. It is understood that Chelsea, who have pursued the centre-back since last summer, are close to giving up and could walk away from negotiations with Sevilla if there is no breakthrough soon.
Another complication is Thomas Tuchel is not entirely convinced about signing Koundé. There are doubts over whether the 5ft 10in defender is tall enough to succeed in the Premier League.
Tuchel refused to talk about Koundé before Chelsea faced Arsenal in a pre-season friendly in Florida last Saturday. Chelsea’s manager expressed frustration with Barça’s conduct this summer, suggesting he may stop César Azpilicueta from moving to the Camp Nou.
Tuchel then gave a fiery press conference after Arsenal beat his side 4-0. The German is understood to be frustrated with Chelsea’s lack of progress in the transfer market. He has seen them miss out on deals for Nathan Aké, Matthijs de Ligt and Raphinha. There has been little progress in talks with Paris Saint-Germain over the France defender Presnel Kimpembe. RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol and Internazionale’s Milan Skriniar are other defensive targets.
Chelsea, who have bolstered their attack by signing Raheem Sterling from Manchester City, need to strengthen their defence after losing Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger on free transfers. They have signed Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, but Tuchel wants to bring in two more centre-backs.
However progress has been slow – Chelsea’s co-owner Todd Boehly has taken charge of recruitment on an interim basis – and Tuchel also made clear that his squad still contains players who wants to leave. There are doubts over the futures of Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, who has been linked with a return to RB Leipzig.
Levi Colwill, a 19-year-old centre-back, could look to leave if Chelsea make further additions in defence, and Armando Broja has seen a move to West Ham collapse. Everton and Napoli could move for Broja, though Chelsea are prepared to keep the 20-year-old striker.
As it stands Chelsea do not appear to be in a strong position before the Premier League starts on 5 August. The club, who visit Everton in their opening game, have experienced huge change since their sale to a consortium fronted by Boehly and Clearlake Capital.
An element of chaos was always likely after the end of the Roman Abramovich era and there is still plenty of time for Tuchel to strengthen before the transfer window shuts. Chelsea are monitoring Frenkie de Jong, but the Netherlands midfielder remains reluctant to leave Barça. Tuchel is also in the market for a right wing-back and is looking at Internazionale’s Denzel Dumfries.