SOCCER

Chelsea’s move for Jules Koundé risks unraveling as Barcelona push | chelsea

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Chelsea’s move for Jules Koundé is in danger of falling apart, with Barcelona refusing to end their pursuit of the Sevilla defender.

It had appeared that Chelsea were close to making Koundé their third summer signing. They were in advanced talks with Sevilla, who held off for £55m, and financial restrictions had left Barcelona close to dropping out of the race for the 23-year-old last Friday.

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However, Barca reignited their interest in Koundé over the weekend and are increasingly optimistic that they will win the race to sign the France international. The Catalan club, who have already beaten Chelsea to the signing of Brazilian winger Raphinha, continued to tell Koundé to wait for him to submit his opening offer. It is believed that they could end up paying a lower fee than Chelsea.

Barca’s persistence has raised fears that Chelsea, who have a five-year contract ready for Koundé, may face further frustration in their attempts to rebuild their defence. It is understood that Chelsea, who have been chasing the centre-back since last summer, are close to giving up and could abandon negotiations with Sevilla if there is no breakthrough soon.

Another complication is that Thomas Tuchel isn’t entirely convinced to sign Koundé. There are doubts whether the 5ft 10in defender is tall enough to succeed in the Premier League.

Tuchel refused to talk about Koundé before Chelsea took on Arsenal in a pre-season friendly in Florida last Saturday. The Chelsea manager has expressed his frustration with Barca’s conduct this summer, suggesting he could prevent César Azpilicueta from moving to Camp Nou.

Tuchel then gave a fiery press conference after Arsenal beat his side 4-0. The German is said to be frustrated with Chelsea’s lack of progress in the transfer market. He saw them miss out on offers for Nathan Aké, Matthijs de Ligt and Raphinha. There has been little progress in talks with Paris Saint-Germain over French defender Presnel Kimpembe. RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol and Internazionale’s Milan Skriniar are other defensive targets.

Chelsea, who have strengthened their attack by signing Raheem Sterling from Manchester City, need to strengthen their defense 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 co-owner Todd Boehly has taken charge of recruitment on an interim basis – and Tuchel has also made it clear that his squad still contains players who want to leave. There are doubts over the future of Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, who have been linked with a return to RB Leipzig.

19-year-old centre-back Levi Colwill could look to leave if Chelsea make any new defensive additions, and Armando Broja has seen a move to West Ham fall apart. Everton and Napoli could move for Broja, although Chelsea are ready to keep the 20-year-old striker.

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As things stand, Chelsea don’t appear to be in a strong position ahead of the start of the Premier League on August 5. The club, which visit Everton in their opening game, have seen huge changes since being sold to a consortium led 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 closes. Chelsea are monitoring Frenkie de Jong, but the Dutch midfielder remains reluctant to leave Barca. Tuchel is also in the hunt for a right-back and turns to Internazionale’s Denzel Dumfries.

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