Conte has cut a frustrated figure at the sluggish nature of the Premier League champions’ recruitment this summer and will expect a trio of arrivals at the very least before the 11pm cut-off. Likeliest of those to be secured is the Spain forward Fernando Llorente, who is expected tocomplete a £15m move from Swansea if Paul Clement’s team secure a replacement. Swansea have a agreed deal in principle to re-sign Wilfried Bony, out of favour at Manchester City.
Yet the other deals targeted by Chelsea may prove harder to secure. Talks are ongoing with Leicester City over Danny Drinkwater, who handed in a transfer request on Monday in the hope of smoothing his departure but will still cost as much as £35m – well above Chelsea’s initial valuation – and with Everton over Ross Barkley. The latter has entered the final 12 months of his contract but Everton have rejected an offer of £25m, with discussions continuing aimed at striking a compromise. The initial asking price for the 23-year-old was £50m.
Barkley is in rehabilitation from a torn hamstring and would not be available most likely until the new year at the earliest and so, while Chelsea would like to secure the player now to prevent Tottenham Hotspur’s interest resurfacing, there is scope for a deal to be revisited mid-season or even next summer if necessary. More of a priority could end up being their pursuit of a right wing-back following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s decision to move to Liverpool instead, and the champions could revisit their interest in Cedric Soares at Southampton, who would be reluctant sellers, or Bayern Munich’s Rafinha, 31, as they seek an upgrade on Victor Moses.
Conte, for all his public assertions that the club are doing all they can to add to his options, will be privately unimpressed that Chelsea have been left scrambling for deals on the final day of the window. The head coach had made clear the need to add greater depth this summer even before last season’s title had been claimed, in anticipation of a return to the Champions League. Yet, while significant fees have been spent on Tiémoué Bakayoko, Antonio Rüdiger and the £58m club-record signing Álvaro Morata, those arrivals have been offset by the sale of Nemanja Matic and anticipated departure of Costa.
Atlético have a further 24 hours to secure the Brazil-born Spain international, who would not be able to play for them until January, given the Spanish window closes at midnight on Friday. Talks have been complicated, with the striker still in Brazil and accumulating weekly fines from Chelsea in his absence, though the Atlético president, Enrique Cerezo, claimed to be “optimistic” a deal would be concluded this week. That would most likely require a down payment of around £38m, with potential add-ons taking the fee closer to £50m.
Llorente would be purchased as a back-up to Morata, though his arrival could have implications for Michy Batshuayi. The Belgium forward was reduced to a bit-part role last season and has slipped back into cameo performances after disappointing in the opening-day defeat by Burnley, with his national captain and club-mate, Eden Hazard, suggesting Batshuayi may have to move to find more regular first-team football if Llorente joins.
“He is now 23 and, if he wants to move forward, he has to play,” Hazard said before Belgium’s World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar on Thursday. “If Llorente comes, we will have him, Morata and Michy, and it will be difficult.” He would be especially disappointed because he played a good pre-season and was more involved. As a friend, I’d recommend him to find a solution to play. But we have to wait on Chelsea to decide. A season like last year would not be good for him or the national team because, for Belgium, he can be important.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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