Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk is one of Chelsea’s primary targets for a busy summer that sees Antonio Conte looking to bring in at least six new signings to take his Premier League-winning side to the next level.
Well aware of both how they will need a bigger squad for next season’s Champions League as well as some issues in the current side, the Italian wants to add strength in depth and extra options, so has pin-pointed six key areas where he wants to sign.
They are: at least one striker, depending on the future of Diego Costa; a central defender; another left-sided central defender; a roaming forward for behind the striker; a central midfielder and a back-up goalkeeper given Asmir Begovic’s departure in pursuit of regular first-team football.While the club are still discussing some positions, clear options have already emerged for particularly important roles.
Van Dijk has become the main target at centre-half and, although Chelsea will face strong competition from Manchester City and Liverpool, there is a growing belief that the 25-year-old Dutch international favours a move to Stamford Bridge. The club hierarchy similarly feel they have the edge on Manchester United in the pursuit of Monaco’s Tiemoué Bakayoko for central midfield.
Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata is Conte’s first choice as striker, but some of the hierarchy would prefer to investigate bringing Romelu Lukaku back to the club from Everton. With the Goodison Park board unwilling to sell Lukaku for anything less than £75m and Morata not currently getting regular football at the Bernabeu, a deal for the Spanish striker is likelier to be easier to do.
Chelsea may also revive their January interest in Swansea City’s Fernando Llorente, but that will depend on whether Costa does actually leave for the Chinese Super League or elsewhere, a situation no longer seen as so certain.
The club have begun investigating a move for Dries Mertens as the forward, but there have already been indications they will have to begin looking elsewhere, since Napoli are determined to keep the Belgian.
There will be one or two sales along with Begovic to help fund a spree that would likely surpass £200m, and club sources say Chelsea would consider an offer from Manchester United for Willian. Jose Mourinho remains a huge fan of the player.
Chelsea are meanwhile themselves intent on keeping Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois in the face of interest from Real Madrid, and expect both to stay.