Cesar Azpilicueta is the latest Chelsea player to emerge onto the radar of FC Barcelona, according to reports.
Barcelona have been linked with a few members of the Chelsea squad recently. They have been tipped to take Saul Niguez next if Atletico Madrid cancel his loan at Stamford Bridge. Furthermore, striker Timo Werner has been suggested as a solution for their attack. In addition, there are claims that Marcos Alonso is actually a Barcelona fan and could join them.
Now, Azpilicueta has also been tipped to switch Stamford Bridge for Camp Nou. In fact, such an idea was mooted a month ago, but now there has been an update that appears to indicate the interest is concrete.
According to ESPN, Barcelona are “monitoring” the defender, who is in the final year of his contract with Chelsea.
Azpilicueta serves as the club’s captain and is a valuable member of their first team. However, he will be able to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from January onwards.
With that in mind, Chelsea will have some fears about potentially losing him in 2022. Given that fellow defenders Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva are also all out of contract at the same time, it is a growing concern.
Barcelona have relied heavily on signing free agents while their finances have been poor. In the summer, they acquired the likes of Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay on those terms. They have also repeated the strategy to bring back Dani Alves from January.
Despite the imminent arrival of the legendary right-back, it is still an area they are looking to strengthen. According to ESPN, they rate Azpilicueta for his ability to play as a centre-back in a back three or a full-back in a four. The idea of him even playing centrally in a four is not discounted either.
Of course, Alves will only sign on until the end of the season, so there will be the need to reinforce his position beyond then too. At the age of 32, Azpilicueta still has plenty left in the tank.
Chelsea hope he will give what he has left to them. But he is yet to agree to any new terms. Therefore, Barca are keeping an eye on the situation.
Their new head coach Xavi is reportedly a big fan of Azpilicueta. In fact, they played together on four occasions for the Spain national team while the former was still active as a player.
Now, Xavi is seeking to reunite with the defender in a different capacity. He is aware of what he could contribute technically, but also in terms of character. Azpilicueta’s leadership qualities are plain to see and would be useful in an otherwise youthful Barca backline.
For now, those qualities are for Chelsea’s use. Thomas Tuchel has handed his captain 13 appearances in all competitions so far this season. The return has been three assists from the Spaniard.
Across his entire Chelsea career, which began in 2012, he has provided 56 assists and 14 goals from 442 games. He has won two league titles and six other trophies in that time.
Should some of their current defenders leave, Chelsea will need to find replacements.
They were already aware of that in the summer, when they tried to sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla. The Frenchman is one of the most impressive and promising centre-backs in Europe.
However, there was a late disagreement over his asking price, which forced him to stay put.
Chelsea thus entered the new season with the same defensive options as before. In addition, Tuchel has given a more prominent role to Trevoh Chalobah. Malang Sarr has also featured on occasion.
With that in mind, the Blues boss has cast doubt on whether they would need another signing in January. But they continue to be linked with Kounde.
The only catch now is that there are other competitors for his signature. Reports have indicated Manchester United possess a firm interest.
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But Kounde has admitted that his failure to join Chelsea did affect him, in what may be perceived as a hint at future interest in a move.
He told TF1: “Has my failed transfer to Chelsea this summer affected me? Yes, a little bit, but now it’s digested.”
Chelsea have built their success so far under Tuchel on a solid defence but it remains to be seen exactly who will be occupying that territory for the seasons ahead.